This is an opinion editorial by Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the pioneering Bitcoin marketplace Silk Road, who is currently serving a double life sentence plus 40 years in federal prison.
Much more is said about Bitcoin these days than when I was put in jail. On October 1, 2022, I began my tenth year locked in this cage. Right now, as I put the pen to the page, the afternoon sun shines through the bars of my window and the murmur of the other prisoners meanders under my cell door.
Over the years, I’ve heard people say all kinds of things about Bitcoin. I have heard that “Bitcoin is dead” and that “Bitcoin is the future”. I have heard that “Bitcoin is bad for the environment” and that “Bitcoin will set us free”. But I’ve noticed that Bitcoin doesn’t seem to care what we say about it. Not the exchange of course, this is driven by the whims of people like all financial markets. I’m talking about Bitcoin itself.
Bitcoin has no ears. What we say doesn’t change that. Barring a societal catastrophe, Bitcoin will continue to add a block every ten minutes, forever. This is the point. Through all the ups and downs since the birth of Bitcoin over 13 years ago, despite the hype, despite the naysayers, despite everything, Bitcoin has never wavered.
I can’t say the same for myself, but then again, I’m only human. A couple of years after starting Bitcoin, I made the biggest mistake of my life: I made Silk Road (an anonymous online marketplace). Of course, at the time, I didn’t know it was a mistake. I thought that was a great idea. I thought I was putting Bitcoin to good use and giving people privacy and freedom. When illegal drugs were listed, I thought that was fine too, because I believed that drugs should be legalized. Never mind that they were banned and I was risking everything I loved.
A couple of years later, I was thrown in prison for drug trafficking and sentenced to two life sentences without parole, plus 40 years. I was falsely portrayed in the media as a violent drug lord. The story of Silk Road was reduced to a cliché of cops and robbers. I went beyond faltering, I hit rock bottom. I’ve been here ever since.
Bitcoin never wavered. Through the rise and fall of Silk Road, through the relentless years of my imprisonment, through competition and catastrophe, Bitcoin continues, block by block, like clockwork.
As Bitcoin has taken off, I’ve struggled to join the world outside my cage. Year after year, my family, friends, supporters and I have been working for my freedom, so that I can have a second chance at life. But I’m tired. I’m exhausted, I want this nightmare to end, and I don’t know if it ever will, no matter how hard we work at it.
Before I got to prison, I didn’t know anything about hard drugs. Since then, I’ve been locked in 8-by-10-foot cells with lifelong addicts for months. I have heard their stories and seen what has become of them. I have faced the fact that by doing Silk Road, I played a role in damaging many lives. I don’t even think about the politics of the war on drugs anymore. I just know that I can never promote the use of drugs, legal or illegal, ever again. How could I, if I myself would never touch them? How could I, if I would be horrified to learn that someone I loved became addicted? All I would think about are the men I’ve known whose lives have been ruined.
I’ve been through many phases during my incarceration: hopelessness, fear, guilt, acceptance, boredom, feverish desperation, and all the while Bitcoin continues. Today I’m inspired by Bitcoin. I will keep going, day by day, taking the next step over and over again. I will keep adding the next blog. Either I will regain my freedom or at the end of my life I can look back and say, “At least I tried.”
This is a guest post by Ross Ulbricht. The opinions expressed are entirely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.