10 Years of Life-Affirming Work Challenging Death-Dealing Institutions

The week before we celebrated our 10th Anniversary at the Abolitionist Law Center an ALC client was granted compassionate release – the 10th time we have brought somebody home under Pennsylvania’s restrictive medical transfer law since October 2021. Incarcerated people are only eligible for release from prison under this statute if they are near death, often unable to walk, and required to go into hospice or nursing care.

As movement lawyers, we understand that our work is not just about structural change, class action injunctions, or monetary damages. At its core, our work is rooted in being there with and for our community when they are facing their darkest moments and most difficult challenges. It is a sick society that lets people die in prison and we will use every means available to bring people home while they have life left.

This life-affirming work against these death-dealing institutions has deep roots in ALC’s history and our abolitionist movement in Pennsylvania. 

In 2013, we filed our first case, which challenged the 22 years of solitary confinement of Russell Maroon Shoatz. He was released from solitary 9 months later. In 2021, we filed our first compassionate release petition, and Maroon was again our client.

Maroon was more than a client. He was a comrade, a movement elder, a father and grandfather, and a mentor to our abolitionist community. He fought for us so we fought for him. Since our first case we have filed 10 more challenges to solitary confinement. And since he was granted compassionate release in October 2021, we have now brought 10 people home through these filings.

Maroon taught us to fight for our whole community and we lift up his legacy in our continuing missions to abolish solitary confinement, death by incarceration, prisons, and all that stands in the way of the liberation of our world.

(image of Kempis Ghani Songster, Robert Saleem Holbrook, Arthur Cetewayo Johnson at ALC 10th anniversary celebration)