Rights Activists Use Bitcoin to Prevent Incarceration of Victimless Criminal Offenders in New Hampshire
Rights Brigade, a New Hampshire-based rights group, is using a Bitcoin-fueled approach to activism to prevent victimless crime culprits from going to jail.
The purpose of its Jury Nullification Outreach Campaign is to educate Jurors about their rights so that they could avoid sending innocent people to prison.
Statistics show that 86 percent of Americans go to jail for victimless crimes like substance use and public order disturbance. It is tough to understand why people are incarcerated for hurting no one but themselves.
Cointelegraph spoke to Joel Valenzuela the founder of the Rights Brigade about how Bitcoin is used to help educate and empower jurors in New Hampshire on preventing victimless criminal offenders going to jail. Joël Valenzuela is also a contributor to Cointelegraph.
Cointelegraph: What necessitated your campaign?
Joël Valenzuela: Every day, people go to jail or suffer criminal convictions because of either a legal technicality or because they committed a victimless crime, an action that is technically illegal but hurts no one. In the American jury system, jurors can vote not to convict a defendant, regardless of the letter of the law. However, most jurors don’t know they have this right and end up sending innocent people to jail because they don’t think they have a choice.
Cointelegraph: What are you going to do?
JV: We will pass out pamphlets to jurors in front of courthouses at the 11 superior courts in New Hampshire. Activists are compensated in Bitcoin- not much but enough to cover their transportation costs. Some days there are six or more selections simultaneously, so that means we need at least six activists all over the state to reach all jurors. A little compensation helps incentivize them.
Cointelegraph: What are the challenges the campaign is encountering?
JV: We have attempted something like this before, but without raising the funding first. It went well but some activists got burned out or were spending too much money on transportation. Now that we have an actual budget, it’s much easier to get reliable help.
Cointelegraph: Could we go through your budget and how much you want to raise?
JV: Sure. It’s all very public, no mysteries here! I wanted to give each activist the equivalent of $10 per operation, $20 if they have to drive more than half an hour. For the 18 times they have to go out in January, that’s between $180 and $360 total, depending on if we can locate activists who live close to the courthouses. So far we have raised about 0.885 BTC or nearly a thousand dollars. That should cover activism for several months at least. Much more than I had expected!
Cointelegraph: At the end of the day what does Rights Brigade wants to achieve with this outreach?
JV: There are two goals here. The first is to educate every single juror in New Hampshire about their right to nullify bad laws. By doing this we hope to keep as many innocent people out of jail as possible.
The secondary goal is to experiment with this new Bitcoin-fueled approach to activism. Before this, I worked in the nonprofit world in fundraising. There are so many government imposed restrictions on donations, how they were spent, and what the organization could do. There’s no limit to what we can accomplish if we can be free to do whatever activism we feel will do the most good, and power it on a small budget of anonymous Bitcoin donations. We could end up revolutionizing the way non-profit organizations work. All because of how easy cryptocurrency makes donations and tipping.