News Article
October 8, 2021

Take Action for Russell Maroon Shoatz



For nearly 50 years, a man of faith by the name of Russell Shoatz has remained behind bars in the Pennsylvania state prison system.

Russell has been imprisoned, incarcerated and caged since the reign of racist terror that former Philadelphia police commissioner, and later mayor, Frank Rizzo showered upon his constituents. Russell endured 30 years of inhumane solitary confinement, and even amidst a lifetime of caging, set himself on a clear path of faith and mentorship to people inside and outside of the prison walls, ourselves included.

When he was released from solitary confinement, after winning a civil suit against the department of corrections, Russell’s life entered a new phase of trial: his health. Over the past few years, he suffered first from prostate cancer and then was diagnosed in 2019 with colorectal cancer. He survived 12 rounds of chemotherapy before being approved for surgery to remove his primary cancerous mass in fall of 2020. In October of 2020, prison guards infected the prisoners of State Correctional Institute Dallas (PA) with COVID-19 and Russell was placed into lockdown and later diagnosed with the deadly virus. After months of delays, he finally received his surgery only to find that the cancer had again metastasized. In the spring of 2021, it was confirmed that he has terminal Stage 4 colorectal cancer.

In conversations since, Russell has expressed that he is at peace with entering the transition from life to death, and his desire to spend his final days surrounded by family and close friends. With this declaration, his legal team at the Abolitionist Law Center in Pennsylvania, filed a petition for medical transfer to home hospice care in July. The grounds were that he had met all of the necessary requirements, including being of model behavior, being unable to walk without the use of a wheelchair or other medical assistance devices, and that a prison environment cannot and will not support proper care for Russell and his rapidly deteriorating health.

The hearing was scheduled for August 3rd, 2021 and after receiving all arguments and letters in support of Russell’s medical transfer, the hearing was called into recess for a week.

On August 12th, 2021, Judge Kai Scott declared that she believed in redemption, that she believed that every person had a right to die in comfort, surrounded by loved ones. However when she had the authority to do so, she was denied the release of Russell to hospice care. It was her belief that this 78 year old elder is a threat to the community. This elder Russell Shoatz, has mentored hundreds, inspired thousands with his spirit, faith, strength and love, and is now suffering greatly under the weight of the disease that will claim his life. Russell is not a threat to the community nor anyone outside of his community, even to those that seek to have him remain imprisoned.

And thus, we ask you today for your support. Please join us as we pray for Russell every Monday, Thursday and rain-day. We ask that you consider how you can support our caged elders and their families. We ask you to join an alliance of other faith leaders, committing to speak out to your congregations about the story of Russell Shoatz. It is not unique, it is the story of many, but it is a story that is unfolding NOW.

We invite you to join us in conversation and in action. We would like to learn about what community work is important to you, your faith and your congregation. We would also like to learn how you and your congregation can support Russell, a father, a son, an elder and a man of faith, in devotion, love, and service to God.

Please click link and sign Google Form below


Letter in Support of Compassionate Release for Russell Maroon Shoatz

Russell Maroon Shoatz was denied a medical transfer to hospice care in August despite serious life-threatening medical conditions by Judge Kai Scott, on the grounds that he presents “an undue risk of escape or danger to the community.” Please sign the following letter in support of Shoatz and his desire to transition in the presence of loved ones.


The Honorable Kai Scott

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas-Philadelphia

708 65th Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19126

Dear Judge Kai Scott,

We, the undersigned, write to you with a sense of urgency—to reconsider your recent denial to hospice care for Russell “Maroon” Shoatz (Russell Shoats, # AF3855), who turned 78 on August 23rd, 2021.

You ruled that Russell Shoatz presented “an undue risk of escape or danger to the community.” We believe that this ruling may have been made with outdated and mistaken information, given that Shoatz has terminal, stage-4 pancreatic cancer, is wheelchair bound and unable to walk, is partially blind, is urinary catheter bag dependent, and is a recent survivor of COVID-19. In this extremely weakened state, it is hard to understand how living his last moments surrounded by family in a court-ruled hospice setting would present any danger whatsoever.

As you know, Shoatz’ sentence was life in prison, but we believe any humanitarian interpretation of his situation today suggests that the current ruling indicates, in effect, a death penalty re-sentencing. Nearly half of his 49 years of incarceration were held while in solitary confinement, itself a condition which warranted reconsideration—as Nobel Peace Laureates and human rights experts across the world successfully called for. We now believe that a similar reconsideration is necessary, based on any interpretation of United States and Pennsylvania law, as well as common-sense spiritual and ethical mandates. This case showcases the appropriate conditions for compassionate release.

There is ample evidence that Russell Shoatz remains a loving father, grandfather, family man, and community elder. We pray for and respectfully request an immediate re-thinking of this important matter.


Joyce Ajlouny, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee (1947 Nobel Peace Laureate)

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva

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