Representatives from the Abolitionist Law Center joined JURIST podcast moderator Ian Everhart to discuss their efforts at reform in the Pennsylvania criminal justice and prison system in this episode. ALC Executive Director Bret Grote and ALC staff attorney Dustin McDaniel shared information about their organization, the mission of which is to abolish “class and race based mass incarceration in the United States.”
Grote and McDaniel shared information about Russell Maroon Shoatz, currently a plaintiff in a case filed by the ALC against the state prison system. Shoatz was convicted of homicide in the 1970s, escaped from prison twice and was placed in solitary confinement after he became involved with a prisoners’ rights movement as an inmate. Grote and McDaniel argue that the state prison system’s treatment of Shoatz, who has now spent decades in solitary confinement with no history of disciplinary problems, is unconstitutional. The ALC is currently raising funds for this and other solitary confinement cases.
Grote and McDaniel also discussed a case involving inmates’ First Amendment rights to receive news and other material related to prisoners’ rights. Holbrook v. Jellen challenges the way prison censors restrict mail sent to inmates; in particular, they object to the prison officials’ determination that certain politically-oriented documents are likely to encourage disruptions among the prison population.