October 1, 2017
Today marks four years that Ross Ulbricht has been incarcerated. He was recently moved from New York to USP-high Florence, Colorado, a maximum-security prison where the Bureau of Prisons puts its most violent offenders. This is not because Ross is violent, but because of his excessive sentence of double life plus 40 years, without parole.
All Ross’ charges are non-violent; he is a first-time offender, and has no history of violence. No victims came forward at trial to say Ross had harmed them in any way. It is quite the opposite, as demonstrated by 100 letters to the judge. In addition, there are many questions about the investigation and trial, including corrupt government agents, precluded evidence and Constitutional violations.
Ross’ designation score, which the BOP uses to place people, is a 12. Even including the charges, that score is so low that it places Ross in a low security prison with non-violent people. He scores one point up from a camp – which has no fences. But because of the sentence issued by Judge Katherine Forrest he is in a USP with violent gangs.
Judge Forrest could have given Ross the mandatory minimum of twenty years, which is a very long sentence – a generation. But that wasn’t enough for Judge Forrest. Neither was 60 years. Judge Forrest was not satisfied with anything less than Ross leaving the prison as a corpse. And taxpayers will pay over $1 million to keep us “safe” from Ross.
Ross is not unique. Life sentences have quintupled since the ‘80s and the drug war. 17,000 people, like Ross, are serving life today for non-violent charges.
Denied appeal by the 2nd Circuit, Ross is preparing to petition the Supreme Court. It is Ross’ hope-- and ours-- that this and his case will shine a light on the rampant abuses in our criminal justice system and the misery the drug war is inflicting (while not curtailing drug use at all). This is our aim, not just for Ross, but for the multiple thousands of people and their families whose lives are being destroyed.
It is a sad anniversary today, but we remain hopeful that Ross will find relief and ultimately be free. And that our criminal justice system will become one that is humane and effective.