The Drug Policy Alliance filed a brief on the 16th pleading the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to reduce Ross Ulbrichts sentence of life without the possibility of parole for operating the Silk Road site.
“We have learned from 40 plus years of the failed war on drugs that incarceration does not prevent drug use or sales.” Retired Federal Judge Nancy Gertner,who is now Senior Lecturer at Harvard Law. “Even if it did, there is absolutely no evidence that a life sentence, including life without parole, is any more effective at deterring crime than a shorter sentence would be.”
The brief was filed on behalf of the Drug Policy Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, JustLeadershipUSA, and retired Judge Gertner. It highlighted the growing bipartisan consensus that life sentences do not make sense of drug convictions; that such sentences are disproportionate to what most people receive for drug trafficking offenses; and, given the failure of the war on drugs, harsh sentences do nothing to deter others from going out and committing similar crimes and doesn’t reduce drug sales or use. It also argued that the trial court relied on theyre false understanding of the cases of overdosing to justify Ulbricht’s harsh sentence.
Ulbricht was convicted on Feb 4th, 2015 of operating Silk Road, where users bought and sold illegal goods. Ross Ulbricht was 26 when Silk Road started and had no prior criminal record. The brief argued “ He received life in prison, short of a sentence of death; the harshest punishment our legal system allows.”
“Mr.Ulbricht’s draconian sentence flies in the face of evolving standards of decency,” said Jolene Forman the Staff Attorney at the office of Legal Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance and lead author of the brief. “Nationally, lawmakers are working across the political aisle to reduce to reduce harsh sentences for for drug offenses. And, many of our allies in Europe consider life without parole sentences inhumane.”
The brief also states, “After decades of harsh federal sentencing guidelines for drug offenses that have not resulted in positive public impacts, sucj as reduced drug use or drug related activity; and hgh costs borne by society and individuals, lawmakers are moving to reform harsh sentences for federal drug convictions like Mr.Ulbrichts.”
In addition to being “out of step” with public opinion, amici argue that Mr.Ulbricht’s sentence is excessive for a drug conviction. On a national level drug trafficking sentences are usually 5 to 6 years. Mr. Ulbricht’s sentence is so far beyond the normal sentence it is being construed as cruel and unusual punishment.
The brief also argued that Ross Ulbricht’s sentence was not in accordance to what he was charged with. Because draconian sentences do not, and his sentence in particular will not, deter others from committing similar crimes. The court also relied on a false understanding of the causes of fatal overdoses as part of its rationale for sentencing Mr. Ulbricht to live without parole.
“ It is impossible t demonstrate that the overdose deaths were connected to or primarily caused by drugs purchased on Silk Road. Fatal overdoses are primarily the result of a complex medical and public policy failings, and not drug use alone of the provision of a drug alone,” it stated in the brief.