Charlie Shrem Talks Prison Life and Bitcoin's Future in Ongoing AMA

Former Bitcoin Foundation board member Charlie Shrem is conducting an ongoing ask-me-anything (AMA) session from prison in Pennsylvania.

AccessTimeIconSep 23, 2015 at 6:55 p.m. UTC
Updated Apr 10, 2024 at 3:12 a.m. UTC
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Former BitInstant CEO and Bitcoin Foundation board member Charlie Shrem is now conducting an ongoing ask-me-anything (AMA) session from Lewisburg Federal Prison Camp in Pennsylvania.

Shrem, who was arrested in early 2014 for violating anti-money laundering laws while at his bitcoin exchange startup, began serving a two-year prison sentence earlier this March. Since then, the always-outspoken advocate for the technology has been silent on new developments in the industry.

However, in the ongoing AMA, hosted by, Shrem opened up about a range of topics including the ongoing debate over bitcoin's block size, adjusting to prison life and why he believes the transparent nature of the bitcoin blockchain will lead to more repressive government regulation.

Shrem spoke at length about why he believes government will eventually lead to the creation of three classes of bitcoin: white bitcoins, those that meet regulatory requirements; gray bitcoins, those that have not been identified by the government; and black bitcoins that are blocked by the bitcoin mining network.

Shrem wrote:

"If the government is able to discover that you possess black bitcoins or process blacklisted transactions, you could even be seen as a someone committing a crime. Eventually Bitcoin will become a fast payment system without counterparty risk but with full government control. Is that what we really want?"

Elsewhere, he weighed in on the ongoing debate about how bitcoin should be changed to process greater transaction volumes, calling on the community to avoid "leaving things as is".

"One of the most important strengths bitcoin has is its ability to adapt and now is the time to do it," Shrem said, adding that he hopes to start or join a bitcoin company when he is eventually released from incarceration.

Further, he discussed the events that led to his sentencing, calling his actions "irresponsible". "I don't blame anyone but myself and every day I think about all the people I let down," he added.

Shrem indicated he plans to answer questions every weekday from 18:30 BST to 20:30 BST, and more regularly on the weekends.

Personal life

Shrem also spoke about his personal life behind bars, reporting that he's already read 70 books while serving as a general education development (GED) teacher for other inmates.

"I take classes about life, lifestyle balance, rational thinking, living with others, yoga and others. I cook a lot, workout every day, walk or run on the track and play sports," he wrote.

On the subject of education, Shrem also reported to teaching inmates about bitcoin, including the more nuanced areas of the technology such as sidechains and alternative distributed ledgers such as Ripple.

"Many people here even owned bitcoin before they came in," he said. "We have a lot of programmers here, finance guys, doctors and economists."

Shrem said he is also teaching himself Spanish and that he hopes to spend time outside of the US when he is eventually released.

Prison image via Shutterstock


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