HODLCast Transcript — Ep. 106 with Lyn Ulbricht
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Ep. 106 — Lyn Ulbricht discussing the need for Prison Reform
Sasha: Hello everyone. Welcome to the HODLcast. I’m sitting in my car right now with Lyn Ulbricht. Lyn, thank you so much for taking the time to do a podcast today. How are you?
Lyn: I’m good. We just went for a wonderful hike with Sasha’s adorable puppy. I’m very dog deprived and had a really nice day. I always love spending time with Sasha, we’re sitting in her cute little car, just had tacos.
Sasha: And what brought you to DC?
Lyn: There was a big conference and I wanted to come and network. It’s called CPAC and a lot of people who know President Trump or have access to him are there. It was a large criminal justice reform contingent of people that I kind of knew, but I got to know better and network with. My whole purpose is for Ross to have a commuted sentence, and the only person on the face of the earth who can do that is President Trump. I want to convince various people in Washington who are influencers or know influencers who can have the president’s ear to bring Ross’s case before him and explain to him that this sentence is an abomination. It shouldn’t be allowed in the United States. It’s a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the eighth amendment and needs to be corrected. Washington DC is the place to do that, so I’ve been here about a week with appointments and talking to various people, and to make some progress towards the president hearing about Ross’s case.
Sasha: How hard is it to get in touch with the president or to get near people that might have his ear?
Lyn: It’s hard, but there’s a lot of people who want to help us because they see the injustice, and our team has been working hard, we’re putting together a packet to present to the white house with various people who’ve been kind enough to write letters on behalf of Ross, you wrote one, and how his sentence should be commuted.
We have a widespread support page. It’s on our website that is growing every day of people who are speaking out publicly about this. And that’s very impressive. We’re just doing what we can to be noticed. I just recently had an op-ed published in the Arizona Republic thanking the president for his work in criminal justice reform because he really has taken this to heart. He pushed through. He really was instrumental in having the first step act passed, which is a big step. It’s not enough, because there’s more to be done, but it’s definitely going to put a crack in the door. It’s definitely opened the way for more reform. And he has been issuing clemency either in the form of pardons or commuted sentences quite a bit. And of course, we’re very hopeful that Ross will be among them one of these days soon.
Sasha: What’s his criteria typically for a granting the clemency? What have some of the other cases looked like?
Lyn: Well, there’s been a range. Some are political, some have drug offenses like Ross does. It’s been a range. A lot of them this time are similar. For instance, most of them, or many of them, were very much contributing to their fellow prisoners. Well, Ross has been doing that from day one. He’s taught classes, he’s helped people get into college remotely. He’s helped people get their GED high school equivalency. He’s always teaching some kind of class and has been a real help, and very generous with his time. And in fact, we have letters from fellow prisoners saying how generous Ross has been, that he is always ready to help them out. And, that counts because it shows your character. And someone who’s like that is very unlikely to re-offend, they don’t want to end up back in prison. They want to join the world and make a contribution. Of course, Ross could make a huge contribution. He’s even doing it in prison in terms of his writings. He spends his time writing, teaching and helping people. So that’s one common theme that I’ve noticed. Of course, Ross is peaceful. All of his charges are nonviolent. He’s not convicted or accused even of causing bodily injury or harm to anyone. He’s not a danger. And none of the people that, at least none that I’m aware of, that the president has set free or pardoned, which is basically wiping the slate clean, have been violent or dangerous.
I’m not saying violent people can’t have redemption. But that’s a theme that I’ve noticed. Personally, I think there are thousands and thousands of people who have been over sentenced or have served way too much time already. I would like to see Ron Paul’s policy that he talked about when he was running, which is every nonviolent person, get them out of there. They don’t need to be in a cage. If they have to, for some reason, whatever their case is, put them on house arrest.
Sasha: That’s one of the things that is so frustrating about these sentences. We now have technology where people can wear an ankle bracelet and they would be so much more comfortable and so much less of an expense to the state at home.
Lyn: The state would make so much less money, Sasha.
Sasha: How much money did they really make off the prisoners?
Lyn: Well, it’s costing billions of dollars of taxpayer money, and there’s all kinds of industries and people making money off of it from vending machines, to prison consultants to the uniforms, and the buildings, and the cleaning and on the staff, it’s a huge jobs program. The prison industrial complex is enormous and it’s very lucrative and it’s costing the taxpayers so much money. And over 60% of the people are nonviolent drug offenders. So, it’s like inventory. You’re making money off human beings. How is it not human trafficking? This is wrong. And it’s destroying not only the lives of the people in there, but their families and their kids. And the kids are more likely to get involved in all of that and ended up in prison too. It’s just a terrible thing that our government is now doing. They’ve weaponized the criminal justice system against people and put these sentences, these ungodly sentences that were unheard of before the 80s.
Sasha: And what is the racial makeup of the prisons that you’ve seen when you’re visiting?
Lyn: It depends on the prison. But I know overall, it’s inordinately more Black and Hispanic people. But, where Ross is now, it looks like there’s more white people, but it’s a different kind of prison. I know that overall, many more, black and Latin people are in a prison.
Sasha: It almost feels like the civil rights movement didn’t happen for all the people that are stuck in there for nonviolent charges. If they hadn’t been that color, they might not have been arrested.
Lyn: Or in that neighborhood. Because I think that it’s a bad situation overall. The whole thing, for everyone. I don’t really tend to see it racially because I’ve met so many different people. Basically, it’s wrong for any human being. As someone said, we should be putting people in prison who we’re afraid of that they’re dangerous, not because we’re angry at them or don’t approve of what they do. That’s not a reason to Cage a person. Yes. Okay. If you need to separate them from society because they actually will murder, kill, hurt someone. That’s one thing. Why do they need to be in this situation for decades? Ross is on his seventh year, seven years.
Sasha: How old is he now?
Lyn: He’s about to be 36 this month. He was 26 when he created silk road, 26 years old. He’s a very different guy and it’s hardly like Ross is going to get out and do it again. No, of course not.
Sasha: And he could create something really positive and powerful.
Lyn: He’s still working on things. He’s staying mentally active. He’s making the best of the situation, which is very inspiring. What a waste of a really wonderful person, but also a very smart person and creative thinker who could, well, who knows what he could come up with. And I think it’s enough. It’s just enough, you know, it’s not doing anyone any good. And so, the other thing we have going is a petition, which is really a PR tool. We’re over a quarter of a million or we’re coming up on 300,000. We’re getting there. That’s a lot of people who are saying this is wrong. This sentence shouldn’t be happening in the United States. A first-time, nonviolent offender should not be getting double life plus 40 years with no parole. It’s insane.
Sasha: Yeah, it really is.
Lyn: And it’s an abuse of power. It’s terrible.
Sasha: It’s like a death sentence.
Lyn: Well, it is a death sentence. And they say, you’ve got life in prison. No, he got death in prison. And it is, it’s a death sentence only. It just takes longer. There’s no way you’re gonna outlive your sentence. There’s over 200,000 people in the system, in the United States. 200,000 people who are nonviolent. I’m talking nonviolent. Look, I’m not saying people don’t do bad things, they do. But personally, if someone’s not violent, I’m not afraid to walk down the street next to them. And if they have an ankle bracelet on or whatever, monitor them or whatever we have, it’s old fashioned in a way. It’s like a dungeon model. Let’s throw him in the dungeon and forget about them. We don’t have to do that anymore for people who aren’t a threat in that way. And the other thing is, how about have them make restitution. If someone steals my car, I’d rather they work to pay me back and give me another car, not pay taxes to put him in jail.
Obviously, you can tell I’m pretty passionate about the subject. It’s not only for Ross. I’ve met so many people, I go to the prison all the time, and I’ve gone to now visited regularly at three different prisons where he has been transferred to. I’ve gotten to know the families and the kids. It’s just too much. It’s too much, and it’s too hard. It’s cruel and it’s wrong. So, we have a petition, so please sign it. It’s at freeross.org (F-R-E-E-R-O-S-S-D-O-T-O-R-G) and there’s a red banner. You click the banner; it goes right to it on change.org. It’s the second fastest growing. It’s the second largest clemency petition on change.org, and it’ll probably be the biggest soon. And that’s to be able to say to legislators and different people, we have this many people. And they’re like, Oh, wow, that’s a movement. That’s not just you talking. And so it’s very helpful tool that way. And the more people we have, the better.
Any other ideas out there, or if people have connections politically, even someone was saying, Hey, I know the mayor of my city, and I said, great, we could have a mayor make a statement. All of that helps. It doesn’t have to be, Oh, I know somebody at the white house. It can be somebody in your state. And I met somebody, a council woman, she’s going to write a letter, she’s a council woman. People who are helping. So just let me know, email me, you can get ahold of me and Ross for that matter. There’s a footer on every page of freeross.org with a contact button. And the other way is, I think you can Google Trump action. And also, we have a page called take action and it’s at the top of there and you can click it and go right to it. And you can write him a note. I’d love to have them receive thousands of these messages saying, please commute Ross’s sentence. And maybe somebody will notice and say, Hey, you know, we’ve got a thousand messages about this guy Ross Ulbricht, what is this?
Sasha: And how long does it take to do that? It takes literally less than a minute. You go, you click that, you write that one sentence and you’re done. And what a difference it can make for Ross’s life.
Lyn: And we even have a cut and paste. You don’t even have to make it up. You can even just cut and paste what we have. So hopefully it gets through. They are asking for feedback. So, one would hope that somebody is taking notice. If anybody has other ideas, I’m really open to it and, or wants to help in different ways. Yeah. I have a lot on my plate trying to do all this, and I’m traveling and, and networking and all the stuff. If you want to help, please do. We’ve had some great people help and really given up their time, and it’s been made it possible really.
Sasha: And how is Ross holding up lately? You said he’s busy, teaching everyone, but how is his overall outlook? Does he feel hopeful that he’s going to get freedom soon?
Lyn: Yup, we do. He’s hopeful it’ll be soon. I honestly believe that he will not die in that place. I really do. It’s just too wrong, and I can’t quit, I won’t, I can’t quit fighting for him. I just can’t, I can’t think of going, I’m too tired not doing it. Bye Ross, have a good time there. I can’t, as long as I’m able, I will be calling attention to it and fighting for it and other people will join me, that I know. And we just won’t let it rest until he walks out of those doors. And I really do feel it will happen. I do because it’s too wrong. It’s too much. And it sets a terrible precedent for others because over sentencing has become a real problem. These sentences were not happening when I was growing up. Nobody got life except a mass murdering maniac. And now they’ve given 17,000 life sentences for nonviolent drug offense. It’s unbelievable how many people, it’s thousands and thousands of life sentences. They’ve quintupled.
Sasha: And a lot of it is just for marijuana. Which is now legal in a lot of places? The system really needs to be looked at and redesigned.
Lyn: A friend of Ross’s in the last prison, he was in is doing life for marijuana in Colorado.
Sasha: How ironic.
Lyn: I know, and he’s totally nonviolent. He’s done 15 years. I think that’s enough for Tony. He needs to get out. But there’s so many others. This is not American. This is not what America’s values are. And the justice system has just gone crazy with this. And it’s money and power. That’s all I can see. It’s not stopping drugs. Stop people from using drugs. What is it accomplishing?
Sasha: Well, thank you Lyn. I appreciate giving us the update and I hope everyone listening to this will take the time to sign the petition and go to the take action tab on the website and send Donald Trump a message that this sentence is just too long and Ross needs to come home and be able to give Lyn some grandkids.
Lyn: Just my kid would be fine. Yeah, Thanks, Sasha.
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