I was put in handcuffs for the first time when I was 29 years old. I was labeled a prisoner that day and have since spent 2,096 days and nights in the captivity of the U.S. federal government. I’m still in prison, condemned to die here with a life sentence and no parole. Prison is nothing if not boring, so I’ve had many hours to think about all sorts of things, including who, if anyone, really belongs here.
The government is often touted as an entity that guarantees the freedom of its citizens. But the United States’ incarceration rate continues to soar. Today, the country hosts nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners despite having less than 5% of the world’s population. Meanwhile, privacy has become moot as location tracking and unmarked police vehicles become the norm. The government has done nothing to stop this, often passing laws to further restrict freedom.
Luckily, there are some individuals who took it upon their own shoulders to fight for the rights of free people to do as they please. In the past ten years alone, these three individuals have done more to guarantee your freedom than the entire United States government has done in 50 years.
October 1, 2018, marked five years since I was imprisoned. My physical surroundings today are ironically similar to what they were after my arrest back in 2013. I’m in the SHU again (Special Housing Unit, aka “the hole”). It means permanent lockdown, separated from the general prison population, in a small cell.
2) Ross Ulbricht
By creating Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht was actually following in the footsteps of Satoshi; his online, private, secure black market exclusively accepted Bitcoin as a means of payment for years after its launch. Silk Road was an e-commerce platform like Amazon or Craigslist but placed a heavy emphasis on privacy and security.
Every year, I go to my parents’ old alma mater in central West Virginia. Outside McCuskey Hall, there’s a grove of enormous oak trees, casting shade on the grassy field. In the fall it is absolutely picturesque. Every year my dad tells me and my sister the same story. When he was in college in the late 80s, he would climb one of the oaks and string up a hammock in the branches. He spent most of his time in these trees with his friends, chatting and practicing dove-calls. But sometimes, he would haul his ham radio (amateur radio) into the branches and talk to kids across the campus or call my mother in the other dorm hall. All the while, he feared to break a major law by ordering a pizza.