Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Long Letter from Rick—Third and Final Part


Communicating with Rick Wershe, Jr. is more difficult, now that he is doing time in a prison in Florida. In late October he sent me a long letter to share with the many readers of Informant America. He knows people are interested to hear how he is doing. The last blog post and the one before that covered other topics from Rick’s letter. Before concluding his observations about life in a Florida prison, I have to do a correction.

I made a mistake. In the last Informant America blog post (A Long Letter from Rick—Part 2) I got one thing wrong. I was explaining that the Florida Department of Corrections appears totally focused on punishment, as opposed to corrections, that is, in correcting criminal behavior and trying to rehabilitate inmates so they can be productive members of society. Apparently, that’s a namby-pamby idea in the Sunshine State. 

Here’s a portion of what I wrote:

You can learn a lot about the crime and punishment attitudes of each state by doing an Internet search of their “Corrections” Department websites.
 Allow me to show you an example of what I’m talking about. If you think Rick Wershe is being wussy in his complaining about the Florida Department of Corrections, I invite you to do the following Google search:

Fire up Google and enter the following: Florida Department of Corrections Photos.

The first thing you get is this:


Click on it. It will take you to a page of “high resolution” images of—Death Row. You will find 23 images—all related to executing prisoners.

I included a “high resolution” image of a death row gurney and wrote it was from Florida’s gas chamber. A reader who sounds like he may be one of the Florida prison guards wrote to me to set me straight.


Florida's "Execution Chamber 1" (Photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections)



“Yo Vinnie, I get that your up there in age but that is no excuse not to check your facts before making the State of Florida sound like some backwards third world country when it comes to applying the dp. Specifically, there is No Gas Chamber. Condemned inmates can choose between the electric chair (no one has done such yet this century) or the preferred lethal injection method.”

So, I stand corrected.

Before I ”…make Florida sound like some backwards third world country when it comes to applying the “dp” (death penalty)…”, the photo of the gurney with the wrist and ankle straps to keep an inmate’s limbs from flailing around during the throes of death should be noted as a gurney for lethal injection, not gas.


Restraints on a Florida Death Row gurney (Photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections)


Allow me to try to make my point again. Apparently, some people didn’t get it.

Here’s a state “Corrections” department which chooses to feature “high resolution” images of their death chamber when you go searching for photos of their prison system. 

No photos of education classes. No photos of inmate intramural sports. Nothing to show rehabilitation. Nothing to showcase “corrections.” Just death row. In high resolution, don’tcha know.

If you work at it, you can find other Florida Department of Corrections photos of guards and their attack dogs who have won competition trophies and a photo or two of guards in full battle gear, ready to kick ass and take names.

So, to the reader who wants me to get my facts straight—okay. Your death row strap-down gurney is for lethal injection, not gas. Glad to know Florida doesn’t run its prisons like some third-world country.

On to the last comments from Rick’s letter...

Rick Wershe is classified as a minimum-security inmate, a guy who doesn’t cause trouble. But he’s not in what civilians would think of as a minimum-security prison:

"Even though I am a minimum-security inmate, I am in a unit with lifers and guys doing 100’s of years," Wershe writes.

In the prison culture, he writes, this isn't a good mix: "You have to watch yourself at all times, especially when they know you are only doing 30 months or so."

It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out that some guy who’s in the joint for life and who has nothing to lose may try to cause trouble for—and with—a guy who’s a short-timer.

“An inmate with a short sentence does far different time than a lifer,” Wershe said. 

“That’s one thing I never let myself become. I always planned on getting out, so I never let prison take over my life as so many do. It’s one of the very sad parts of prison, when you just give up and let this become your life and your world.”

Rick Wershe writes he is trying to keep a positive attitude:

“Just hoping for better times in the near future and hoping I can get moved to a minimum-security place and be around others who are on their way home and don’t want to get in any trouble.”

He adds: “All I want to do is do whatever time I have to do and get on with my life.”









Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Long Letter from Rick – Part 2


In the last blog installment of Informant America it was noted that I received a long letter from Rick Wershe who is now in prison in Florida. Communication with Rick, or any inmate in the Florida prison system, is not easy. Rick has spent nearly 30 years behind bars, most of them in Michigan. He says the Florida Corrections System is real culture shock. This blog continues with quotes from Rick’s letter…

Rick Wershe wrote his multi-page letter to me standing up. He had no choice. There is no place to sit in his two-man cell. “There’s not anywhere in the cell to sit down and write a letter,” he writes. “I stand up and use the top bunk to write on.” Eating meals in the cell is a challenge, too. “You stand up and eat off your tray or sit on the floor with the tray on your lap,” Wershe writes.

In a previous blog I wrote that prison food in Florida is nothing to write home about. It provides daily nutritional needs and that’s about it. Like prisons everywhere, Florida has “canteens” where prisoner with a little change in their pocket can buy snacks or simple foods like packaged soup. “The prices down here for a lot of things are more than double,” Wershe writes. “A soup in Michigan costs 34 cents. In Florida prisons, it’s 70 cents. (The cost of) Everything is 50% to 100% or more and here they have no paying jobs like in Michigan or with the Feds.”

What he’s referring to are paying work details in other state and federal prisons. Paid work details accomplish several things. They give inmates something useful to do with their time. It gives them a means of acquiring modest amounts of money they can spend inside on something they want. This mimics the world outside, where you work to earn money to spend. Imagine that. Yet, Florida doesn’t offer that constructive opportunity for prison inmates.

Someone reading this might sarcastically think, ‘Aw. Too bad for those poor criminals.’ That kind of hard-ass crime-and-punishment thinking might make some macho men feel better, but it comes down to a bigger question: do we want convicted criminals to do time behind bars and nothing more, or do we want to at least try to educate them in subtle but daily ways about acceptable ways to get a long in life on the outside?

You can learn a lot about the crime and punishment attitudes of each state by doing an Internet search of their “Corrections” Department websites.

Allow me to show you an example of what I’m talking about. If you think Rick Wershe is being wussy in his complaining about the Florida Department of Corrections, I invite you to do the following Google search:

Fire up Google and enter the following: Florida Department of Corrections Photos.

The first thing you get is this:


Click on it. It will take you to a page of “high resolution” images of—Death Row. You will find 23 images—all related to executing prisoners.

This is Florida's gas chamber, which they proudly feature as the first photos you find if you try to find images about their prison system. (Photos: Florida Dept. of Corrections)


This is a cell where Florida inmates on Death Row wait to die. (Photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections)



There are 16 views of the Florida gas chamber, six views of Death row cells where inmates wait to die and one image of an electric chair. That’s it. That’s all the Florida Department of Corrections offers Internet visitors who would like to see images of what their “Corrections” system is all about.

Good luck finding other images. If you dig around you can find some. Like this one, celebrating trophies won by guards who work with attack and tracking dogs:

(Photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections)
(Photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections)

Bloodhounds for tracking escaped prisoners seem to be a favorite photo subject for the Florida Department of “Corrections”:

 
(Photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections)


But as the photo above shows, the Florida Department of “Corrections” doesn’t just rely on dogs. They are ready for deadly combat with inmates, too:


Yes. Yes. They have to be ready for trouble because some of their guests are troublemakers. But it tells us a lot that Florida emphasizes photos of Death Row and attack dogs and assault troops in what might be called their public relations. It tells us that concepts like "corrections" and "rehabilitation" don't mean much in their prison system. 

There’s a bit more in Rick Wershe’s letter from prison and I’ll share it in the next post.

***
Here’s how to write to Rick Wershe if you are inclined to do so. Be sure to include his inmate number in the address and on the head of the letter itself:

Mr. Richard J. Wershe, Jr.
No. K70365
Columbia Correctional Institution
216 SE Corrections Way, Lake City, FL 32025

  


Sunday, November 5, 2017

A long letter from Rick


Richard Wershe, Jr. is in a Florida prison serving the remainder of a jail term for a conviction in a car fraud and theft case. He was transferred to Florida after the Michigan Parole Board granted him a parole from a life prison term for a non-violent drug conviction when he was 18. He spent 29 1/2 years behind bars for the drug case. Wershe had been an FBI informant and he told on the wrong people, politically powerful people, who fought to keep him in prison until he died. He cost them a lot of money by telling the FBI about them. Communication with Wershe in Florida is difficult but recently he sent a lengthy letter…

I have not been able to communicate directly with Rick Wershe since mid-July. Communicating with inmates in the Florida prison system is difficult, even for defense attorneys.

When Wershe was assigned to a prison in Florida and I had an actual address, I sent him a letter. He sent a reply letter that runs several pages. It will be the basis for several Informant America blogs. In my letter to Rick I told him many people remain interested in his story. As of this weekend, the number of page views for Informant America numbers close to 344-thousand. The previous post, about Rick’s new “home” in Florida had over 65-hundred views.

I explained to Rick that people want to know what’s up with him. So, I’m going to quote from his letter because he knows people are interested.


This is Rick Wershe's Florida inmate photo (Florida Dept. of Corrections)


Rick is in prison culture shock and he doesn’t mind saying so. “My new residence,” Rick writes, “Wow. Culture shock! No one should ever complain about a MI (Michigan) prison again!”

Wershe spent years at the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee on the western side of Michigan. There, he was in a security unit separated from the rest of the inmate population. He was in there with others who had been informants in important cases or they had been police officers or prosecutors or judges who might be in physical danger in the general inmate population.

Wershe had his own private cell. It was small, but it was his space. He had a little TV just for himself. Oaks has a restricted cable TV system but Rick could choose to watch what he wanted on the available channels, when he wanted. Not so in Florida.

The prison where he is locked up in Florida has “2-man cells with nothing in them, 2 bunks and 2 metal footlockers (plus) a metal sink and toilet.” He says both are old and “not very clean.” His letter continues, “Put it this way—in the last 29 ½ years I did (in prison), I have never lived like this.”


Most inmates in Florida prisons live in dorms. They have a bed and a footlocker and nothing else. This is not the prison where Rick Wershe is housed. (Photo-Florida Dept. of Corrections.

As for watching TV, there’s no private set in the cell. Wershe has to go to a “TV room” and watch one TV shared by “90 guys.” He says about half the inmates in his unit go to the TV room to watch the news, sports and maybe a few network TV shows. “Sure miss my own cell and own TV, no matter how small it was!” Rick writes.

Rick has had some difficulty just walking around. “The State of Florida issues you shoes that are like those “Croc sandals.” Inmates have to walk around in them until they can buy gym shoes, which takes about 2 months or so.”

Inmates have a dilemma. There aren’t work details where they can earn money, so accumulating cash for things like gym shoes can be a challenge. No, you can’t help Rick by sending him a pair. He has to wear prison-issue garb. Still, he’s anxious to get some canvas gym shoes because the prison-issue croc sandals, “made my feet swell walking in them, but you have no choice.”

There’s more in Rick’s letter and it will be shared in the next Informant America post.

***

If you want to send Rick a letter he would undoubtedly like to hear from you. But be aware the prison staff carefully reads all mail: going out and coming in. It would be wise to keep that in mind when writing a letter. Don’t forget to include his inmate number in the address:

Mr. Richard J. Wershe, Jr.
No. K70365
Columbia Correctional Institution

216 SE Corrections Way, Lake City, FL 32025

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Florida classifies Rick Wershe as a "minimum custody" inmate

Rick Wershe is settling in at Columbia prison in northern Florida, to serve the remainder of his time on a car fraud and theft conviction. With “good time” calculations, it is believed he has less than two years to serve. In July, the Michigan Parole Board granted him a parole from his life sentence for a non-violent drug conviction when he was a teen.

The State of Florida has concluded Richard J. Wershe, Jr.—known in the media as White Boy Rick—is not a menace to society. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office once made that outrageous, unsubstantiated claim, but prison authorities in Florida have dismissed it. They have placed Wershe in a low security prison. This follows an extensive review of his record while doing time in Michigan, combined with the nature of the offense in Florida and direct interviews with Rick by Florida corrections staff.


Florida has classified Rick Wershe as a "minimum custody" inmate. (Photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections)

When Florida officials examined Wershe’s Michigan prison history, they learned he was not a troublemaker. In fact, he was liked by the Michigan prison staff. Erik Smith, the assistant to the warden at Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee, Michigan, where Wershe was incarcerated for many years, once told me Rick would be classified as a model prisoner, if there were such a thing.

Rick Wershe has always been cooperative with law enforcement. In a way, that’s how he wound up with a life prison term.

For those unfamiliar with his story, here is another summary of the Rick Wershe saga.

He grew up in a dysfunctional family in one of Detroit’s “changing” neighborhoods. He wasn’t a drug user but he was a street-smart kid. He was friendly with the Curry Brothers, a dope-dealing family of interest to the FBI because the leader, Johnny Curry, was engaged to the niece of Detroit’s mayor, Coleman Young.

The FBI recruited Rick Wershe—at age 14—to be a paid informer against the Currys. The young spy was too good at his work. He told the FBI about dope deals, but he also told them about corruption involving Inspector Gil Hill, the head of Detroit Police Homicide and a star in the Eddie Murphy Beverly Hills Cop movies. Hill was viewed by many has a celebrity-hero in the black community. Wershe’s public corruption information about Hill caused a furor within the FBI and Justice Department and the FBI dropped him as a snitch. Wershe decided to try to become a cocaine wholesaler, but he got caught, was tried and convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

Rick Wershe was the longest-serving juvenile in Michigan history for a non-violent drug offense. Informant America has documented at great length in previous posts the evidence that suggests politically powerful individuals in the Michigan criminal “justice” system went to great lengths to keep him in prison in retaliation for his cooperation with the FBI regarding drug corruption in Detroit. He was finally paroled this past July.

Wershe is doing time in Florida for a 2006 conviction in a car theft and fraud scheme. Wershe was in a federal prison in Florida in the Witness Security program for his role in an FBI undercover sting operation that resulted in a dozen or so cops going to prison for getting paid to guard what they thought were drug and drug cash shipments.

While in the federal prison, Wershe got in involved in a used car re-sale scheme involving a dozen or so individuals that seemed legitimate, at first. Wershe helped his sister buy used cars in Florida to be re-sold in Michigan at a profit. The money was to help Wershe’s sister and mother with living expenses. It wasn’t long before Wershe learned some of the cars were stolen. He continued to participate in the scheme, anyway. He and the others got caught and that’s why he’s in Florida now.


Wershe is in the Columbia Correctional Institution, adjacent to the 200-thousand-acre Osceola National Forest, about 50 miles west of Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo: Florida Department of Corrections)


Wershe is in the Columbia Correctional Facility in Lake City, about 50 miles west of Jacksonville. There are about a thousand inmates housed at Columbia.

Florida prisons favor open dormitories instead of private cells. In Michigan, Wershe had a private cell. In Columbia, the housing ranges from two-man cells to “open bay” dormitories.

In response to questions about Rick Wershe, the Florida Department of Corrections replied: "Inmate Wershe is assigned to work detail. Work detail assignments can vary from laundry to food service, inside grounds maintenance, etc."

Like the Michigan prison system, the Florida Department of Corrections is reluctant to go in to specific details about Rick Wershe's life behind bars "due to security concerns."

Wershe’s release date is officially listed as April 20, 2021 but his inmate profile notes: "Release Date subject to change pending gain time award, gain time forfeiture, or review. A 'TO BE SET' Release Date is to be established pending review."

“Gain time” is Florida’s term for a sentence reduction for good behavior. Rick Wershe’s “gain time” will be subject to various factors, but mostly it will be based on his behavior behind bars.

He has a shot at a “clemency” early release. Clemency petitions have to be submitted to a board that includes the governor and state attorney general. By all accounts, clemency and pardons are rare in Florida. But as Rick and his supporters note, it’s worth a try.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Rick Wershe sent to his Florida ‘place of residence’

The State of Florida has finally figured out where to imprison Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe to serve his time in his auto fraud/theft case, committed while he was in a Florida federal Witness Security prison. In July, the Michigan Parole Board granted him parole after nearly 30 years in prison for a non-violent drug crime from his teen years. He’s now in a state prison in Northern Florida.

The Columbia Correctional Institution is a Florida state prison in Lake City, about 50 miles west of Jacksonville. It is to be home for Richard J. Wershe, Jr. for the foreseeable future. Due to his background and notorious reputation as an FBI informant, he is in what Florida officials call a “protective management” unit.
Wershe has not been happy since his arrival in Florida several weeks ago. More on that to follow.

Rick Wershe's Florida inmate photo (Photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections)


He was granted parole in Michigan on July 18th, but Florida had a “hold” on him, so he remained in the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee until arrangements could be made to transport him. That took bureaucratic time. He dodged one nightmare when Florida arranged to have the U.S. Marshal’s Service move him, instead of using a dreaded private, for-profit prison van transport service.

It took several weeks but Rick Wershe got to Florida by way of the federal prison in Milan, Michigan and a county jail in Oklahoma City as a slow-service passenger aboard “Con Air.” That's the nickname for the Marshal’s Service air transport wing. The Marshal’s service will fly an inmate from A to B, but any given prisoner might lay over in a lockup in between for a week or so as the air service shuffles inmates to maximize the number of passengers aboard each flight of Con Air.

Wershe was able to dodge Hurricane Irma. He was in Oklahoma City when it struck. When he arrived in Florida, he was taken to an intake and medical facility for “evaluation.” 

Florida officials knew Wershe was somewhat notorious and that he had helped the FBI put a number of criminals in prison. They decided to protect him. Their effort to protect him made him miserable. They put him in “lockdown”, which is what most people on the outside would regard as solitary confinement. In prison, lockdown is usually regarded as heavy-duty punishment.

Rick Wershe is a people person. He’s gregarious. He talks to people. Sometimes, too much for his own good. In lockdown, he was isolated from the other inmates.

Now he’s been assigned to a “protective management unit” at the Columbia Correctional prison which is between Jacksonville and Tallahassee, near where Interstates 75 and 10 intersect. It’s in the small town of Lake City, population about two thousand. One of the features of Lake City is Alligator Lake Park. The prison is east of town, adjacent to the Osceola National Forest, known for swamps, alligators and poisonous snakes.   

Presumably, Wershe will be able to mingle with other inmates who turned informant or with convicted police officers, judges and other public officials who might be at risk in the general prison population.

Aerial view of Florida's Columbia Correctional Institution (Photo: Google Maps)


Florida’s Colombia Correctional Institution is not a “country club” prison. Far from it. Florida’s prisons are badly understaffed and underfunded. Tensions are high in many prisons. At Columbia, a mentally ill inmate was found dead under mysterious circumstances in 2016, a day after a corrections officer had been stabbed. The year before, two guards were fired and charged with brutality against inmates.

Florida St. Rep. David Richardson found conditions at the prison where Rick Wershe is incarcerated "horrific."


Florida State Representative David Richardson of Miami is what you might call a one-man advocate for improved prison conditions in Florida. Last December he visited Columbia, Rick Wershe’s new “home” and the legislator declared the conditions were “horrific—unfit for human habitation.” Richardson had visited 60 Florida prisons and talked with hundreds of inmates.

He found toilets that malfunctioned, and no hot water for inmates to make instant soup or coffee they had purchased at the prison canteen. 

“People might think this is no big deal — so you can’t make a cup of coffee — but it’s the little things that tend to be causation of unrest and riots,” Richardson told the Miami Herald. “It can be the coffee one day, then the showers and they all build up until the next thing you’ve got is a riot situation.”

How long will Rick Wershe be in this place? That’s not yet clear. It’s possible he could be there two years, but there are “good time” calculations that could make his time in Columbia shorter. And there is a slim chance he might be considered by clemency by Florida's law-and-order governor. For Rick Wershe, whatever his release date, it can’t be soon enough.

***
If you want to send Rick Wershe a card, note or letter, here is the address. Be sure to include his inmate number in the address:

Mr. Richard J. Wershe, Jr.
No. K70365
Columbia Correctional Institution

216 SE Corrections Way, Lake City, FL 32025


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rick Wershe is in Florida to do his time


Richard Wershe, Jr., the longest-serving Michigan prison inmate sentenced as a juvenile for a non-violent drug crime, is finally in Florida serving what remains of a five-year prison sentence in an auto fraud and theft scheme from 2004. Wershe was paroled in July by Michigan authorities, after serving nearly 30 years of a life sentence. Critics say the repeated refusal to grant Wershe parole until this year was a local justice system vendetta for helping the FBI prosecute politically-connected drug dealers.

Rick Wershe, the guy the media loves to call White Boy Rick, is in the Florida sunshine, at least during prison yard time. He’s looking forward to a different kind of sunshine, the sunshine of freedom, perhaps in a few months. The U.S. Marshal’s service was contracted to transport Wershe from Michigan to Florida. It took several weeks, even though he traveled by “Con Air”, the nickname for a prisoner air transport service operated by the Marshal’s Service. Wershe was in lock-ups in Milan, Michigan and Oklahoma City from mid-August until his arrival in Florida last week.

Richard J. Wershe, Jr.-Florida inmate photo (Photo-Florida Dept. of Corrections)





Wershe told Kevin Dietz of WDIV-TV, Detroit that he’s “doing great” and is looking forward to complete freedom for the first time in his adult life.  

Rick Wershe was recruited by the FBI at age 14 to become the youngest Bureau informant in the War on Drugs. He was not a drug user but he knew the Curry Brothers, an east side gang that was a target of investigation, because, the leader, Johnny Curry, was engaged to Cathy Volsan, the niece of then-Detroit mayor Coleman Young. Mayor Young had been an FBI investigative target most of his life.

The teen informant did a good job, with his late father collecting cash payments from the FBI for his son’s undercover work. Young Wershe told the FBI about corruption involving former Detroit Homicide Inspector and later City Council President Gil Hill, now deceased. 

The late Gil Hill, on the left, in FBI surveillance photo from Operation Backbone, an undercover sting operation that lured police officers in to protecting drug shipments and cash being transported for money laundering. (FBI photo)




The FBI dropped Rick Wershe as an informant and he made a decision to try to become a drug wholesaler—and got caught by the Detroit Police. He was sentenced at age 18 to life in prison under a harsh Michigan law that has since been discarded.

While in prison, Rick Wershe, Jr. helped the FBI again, this time in an undercover sting operation that nailed a dozen police officers and Mayor Young’s brother-in-law, the late Willie Volsan.

The late Willie Clyde Volsan, the brother-in-law of Detroit Mayor Coleman Young. Volsan was tried, convicted and sent to prison in the Operation Backbone undercover investigation. Volsan found police officers willing to guard fake drug and cash shipments for  money in an FBI undercover sting operation. (FBI photo)



Wershe was placed in the federal Witness Security (WitSec) program for prison inmates who help develop big cases. He did time in federal prisons in Arizona and Florida.

While in the federal Witness Security program in Florida, Wershe got involved with selling used cars from prison. Some of the cars were stolen, but Wershe continued to participate in the scheme, anyway.

When charges were brought against him, Wershe was told his mother and sister would be prosecuted, too, because they had helped him with the car scheme. It was a dubious threat, but to protect his mother and sister, Wershe pleaded guilty as charged.


Wershe got jammed with a prison sentence in Florida that was structured to run consecutive to his life sentence in Michigan in the drug case. His Florida court-appointed attorney did not argue for a concurrent sentence. Thus, when Wershe was granted parole in Michigan, he still faced time in Florida. He’s doing that time now and looking forward to the day he can be truly free.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

No, Rick is NOT in Florida


Followers of the misadventures of Rick Wershe are aware he was on his way to Florida to serve more prison time in an auto theft and fraud case after Michigan authorities granted him a parole from his life sentence. He had served nearly 30 years of a life prison sentence for possession of cocaine in a non-violent case that began when he was 17. Is Rick Wershe in harm’s way regarding Hurricane Irma? The answer is, no.

Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is not in Florida.

He’s not in any danger from a hurricane. He is in another state, not in the path of the hurricane, sitting in a federal lock-up, awaiting transport to Florida when it’s safe.

Wershe is in the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s service. Transporting prisoners to and from courts is one the agency’s primary duties. This includes moving them from prison to prison. 

Rick Wershe is a state prisoner and states needing to move an inmate can contract with private, for-profit ground transport services or they can contract, on a prisoner-by-prisoner basis, with the U.S. Marshal’s Service. That’s what Florida has done in the Rick Wershe case.

For Wershe, all things considered, his situation is much better than it might have been.

Wershe was released from Michigan custody to the custody of U.S. Marshals on August 22nd. That same day he was transported to the federal prison in Milan, Michigan, outside Ann Arbor, where he was housed for over a week.

Wershe is, of course, a high-profile prisoner due to all the publicity surrounding his case and the movie that’s being made about his story. For his safety, Wershe was held in an isolation unit. His lawyer, Ralph Musilli, got to visit with him for an hour or so. Rick reported he was well-treated. He also appreciated the “upgrade” in food. Federal prisons generally have better food service than state prisons. This is particularly true regarding Florida.

After his stay in Milan, Wershe was flown to another state to await another flight to Florida. He was flown aboard a passenger aircraft that is part of a fleet known as Con Air. That’s short for Convict Air, which is a civilian nickname for what is formally known as the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation system, or JPATS. The transport service was featured in a 1997 Nicolas Cage action movie. The plane used in the movie is not part of the JPATS fleet. Con Air sounds cooler than JPATS, but the U.S. government isn't known for cool names.


This is one of the prisoner transport aircraft in the JPATS fleet. Rick Wershe, Jr. may travel to Florida aboard a plane like this one. (Photo: U.S. Marshal's Service)


Flying, as opposed to bouncing around endlessly in a prisoner van, is much more humane and much-preferred. Wershe was flown from Michigan to another state, where he is housed in another federal prison awaiting a second flight to Florida. He may be there awhile.

The State of Florida spent much of last week scrambling to move state prison inmates from at-risk lockups to safer, more secure prisons. As of the weekend, Florida had evacuated 31 of its 143 prisons. It is doubtful Florida will be accepting transport prisoners any time soon.

No matter where Wershe is housed, every day since August 22nd counts as time served toward his Florida sentence. The food and facilities are generally much better in the federal prison system as opposed to state prisons, so for Rick Wershe, sitting in a federal prison awaiting transfer to Florida is not a bad deal.

Still, this process requires some adjustment. Rick is now housed in a cell with two other inmates. In Michigan, he had a private cell for years. He has reported the other inmates are nice young men.


Wershe’s arrival in Florida is up to Mother Nature. Con Air will fly to Florida when it’s safe. In the meantime, he is doing alright—and waiting out the storm.