Ross Ulbricht turns 34 today. It is his fifth birthday spent in prison, serving a double life sentence for all non-violent charges. If District Court Judge Katherine Forrest has her way, Ross will spend all his future birthdays there too, until he is carried out as a corpse.

Each passing birthday brings home how Ross’s life is ticking away, separated from his family, friends and ways to contribute to society. His imprisonment hasn’t stopped drug use, drug sales or dark net markets. It has accomplished nothing but the waste of yet another life in the rapidly growing U.S. prison system. Like that of multiple thousands warehoused in American prisons, Ross’s incarceration is a colossal waste at enormous tax-payer expense. This excessive punishment of our people―so many of them, like Ross, non-violent or reformed and a threat to no one―is a national disgrace and a humanitarian crisis. It is a cancer that is metastasizing at an alarming rate, with the number of life sentences quintupled since the ‘80s and the overall incarceration rate up 400%.

There are benefits, however, at least to some. The prison industry is an entrenched and lucrative money-maker and a massive jobs program that has spawned countless subsidiary industries to service it. Excessive sentences like Ross’s feed this monster: the longer inmates are kept, the more tax-payer money is spent. This begs the question: If the inventory is human beings, does that make it human trafficking?

The failed drug war also fuels this evil system, with drug offenders making up over half the prison population. No wonder private prisons, prison guard unions and police unions are among the top lobbying groups opposing marijuana legalization. Gotta keep that inventory well stocked!

We can’t be with Ross on his birthday. It’s not a visiting day at USP Florence. But our gift to Ross is to keep fighting, not only for him but to reform a system that is a blight on our nation. Please join us at