PHILADELPHIA — Russell “Maroon” Shoats, 61, has been in prison for over 33 years for the death of a policeman in a case known as the “Philly 5.” He is a father, grandfather and model prisoner, with only one minor rule infraction during his imprisonment. Despite his good behavior, he has spent more than 10 of those years in solitary confinement.

“Maroon,” as he is widely known, is a former community activist and founder of the Black Unity Council. He has written for a number of independent newspapers while incarcerated.

He is currently at Pennsylvania’s SCI Greene Prison, 300 miles away from his family and friends in Philadelphia.

Several years ago, Shoats underwent a blood test that revealed an abnormality. He should have received further tests and treatment at that time, but he was not informed of the nature of the test or the results. Several weeks ago, after receiving a similar test, Shoats was told he might have prostate cancer.

The cancer is now at a stage where it might not be treatable. Despite its legal obligation to care for its inmates, the Department of Corrections has failed to give Shoats the medical attention he so desperately needs.

A town meeting to address Shoats’ situation took place on April 25 in West Philadelphia. Petitions were distributed for gathering signatures in the hope that Shoats can not only be moved closer to his family and loved ones, but also receive this possible life-saving treatment.