Prison Radio
Sergio Hyland

Hey, what’s up, everybody. This Uptwown Serg, and this is the implacable Maroon.

Russell Maroon Shoatz is holding on after nearly 50 years in prison. He continues to struggle for the freedom that he deserves. This past couple of years have been very different, especially recently. Up against what are the most aggressive and deadly forms of cancer, Maroon has been raising the fight or flight. To make matters worse, he couldn’t escape the COVID-19 pandemic. Sometimes I’m amazed at what he’s built to endure.

I met Russell Maroon Shoatz so many years ago when I was stuck in solitary confinement. I read a bunch of his essays, and in each one it felt as if he was speaking directly to me. So when I was sentenced to solitary confinement, I did everything in my power to land on the same unit that the legend was housed on.

He started with us passing letters to each other. Since we were still on different blocks, this was the best I could do. Those short letters quickly turned into long ones, and I knew that class was in session. As time went on, he got his family to send me books through the mail. My eyes began to open to an entirely different nuanced understanding of the world that we live in.

People talk a lot about racialized state violence and its structural character. I didn’t understand it back then, but I do now. Inadequate housing, inferior education, poor healthcare, and poverty are all forms of state violence when they are purposely inflicted upon any human being. But when those forms of state violence are specifically inflicted upon a certain race, we refer to that as racialized state violence.

It’s no different than apartheid that was taking place in South Africa or the ethnic cleansing currently taking place in Eastern Europe. The problem with racialized state violence in twenty-first-century America is that it now is a part of the American structure, making it more difficult to identify and thus more difficult to critique and challenge.

Allowing Russell Maroon Shoatz to die in prison isn’t justice. It’s merely the realization and result of structural racialized violence. Russell Shoatz is a political prisoner convicted acts that were committed during a time when black and brown people were engaged in a war for their very survival. His acts weren’t for selfish gain either.

In fact, with the burden of a life without parole sentence weighing him down, he still continues to mentor and educate young men such as myself from extreme margins from this one-man cell in solitary confinement. Nearly 80 years old, his principles haven’t changed. Even in prison, against seemingly insurmountable reactionary state violence, he wills himself to carry out the mission of his generation, and I, for one, am grateful for his resolve.

I don’t know how his story will end, I’m hopeful, but I can’t predict if my elder will ever be released from prison. However, I can predict one thing: I can predict that I’ll never quit advocating on his behalf. I’ll never quit being an example of his tutelage. I’ll never quit fighting for Russell Maroon Shoatz, because he never quit fighting for me. He never quit fighting for any of us, and he never will. Free Russell Maroon Shoatz, free all political prisoners.

Follow me on Instagram @uptownserg, and read more about our fight to free all political prisoners at And to join the campaign to free Russell Maroon Shoatz, contact

These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.