Sunday, August 27, 2017

On the Road to…Somewhere

Last Tuesday—August 22nd—without fanfare the U.S. Marshal’s Service picked up Richard Wershe, Jr. at Michigan’s Oaks Correctional Facility for transport to Florida to begin serving what’s left of a five-year prison sentence there for his guilty plea in an auto fraud and theft scheme when he was in federal prison in that state in 2004—05. When he will arrive in Florida is unknown.

Rick Wershe, Jr. - On the Road Again (MDOC Photo)

As of this weekend, Rick Wershe is somewhere between here and there. He’s actually housed for an indeterminate time in a federal prison, and he may see the insides of several federal facilities before he winds up in Florida. Being transported by the U.S. Marshal Service is no picnic, but it beats bouncing from state to state in a dilapidated van operated by a privately-owned, for-profit “extradition service.” Here’s what happened:

Officials at Michigan’s Oaks prison were in contact with Florida officials about transporting Wershe to the Sunshine state. There were several options, including the possibility of flying him from Michigan to Florida. That didn’t happen.

The U.S. Marshal’s Service has a lot of experience moving prisoners from lockups to court houses, from local jails to federal prisons and from prison to prison. Their services are available to state prison systems, if needed—for an established price. That is, Florida can pay them to get a prisoner like Wershe and bring him to them.

Apparently, there was some back and forth about Rick’s past as a federal informant, his notoriety in the media and the fact he has had some health issues in the past that might require urgent attention if he’s in transit. All of these things may have been a factor in the Florida decision to have the Marshal’s Service transport Wershe to their custody.

Unlike the private for-profit transport services, the Marshal’s Service moves prisoners at its own pace. They may park an inmate in a federal prison facility for a few days or even a few weeks as they juggle vehicles and staff and move prisoners on a timetable and travel route that is convenient for them.

The State of Florida doesn’t much care, as long as he gets there.

For Rick Wershe, it has no impact on his prison time because transit days count toward time-served. In custody is in custody, no matter where your body happens to be. 

So however long it takes the U.S. Marshals to move him from Michigan to Florida, those days count toward his time-served in the Florida case.

When Wershe gets to Florida, he will be in a different environment, and that doesn’t mean the weather. Speaking of weather, most Florida prisons are not air conditioned. Only 11 of the state’s 48 prisons have some air-conditioned units.

His first stop will be an “intake” center. There he will be formally interviewed by the staff and evaluated. This process will determine where he is housed, where he will spend his time while serving his sentence. For now, no one knows which facility he will be in. Florida has prisons, “annexes”, “work camps” and the like spread all over the state, housing over 99,000 inmates.

The Florida prison system is vast and has facilities all across the state. (Map: Florida Dept. of Corrections)

In Michigan, Rick Wershe was in a special unit because of his notoriety as an FBI informant. Bluntly, there was concern for his safety in a culture where “snitches get stitches.”
His unit at Oaks was segregated from the rest of the inmate population. Convicted police officers, judges and other informants were his neighbors. They ate together, exercised together and Rick had a one-man cell. He never had any trouble incidents.

Inmate housing in most Florida prisons is dormitory-style. (Photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections)

Florida favors dormitory-style prisons. That’s not to say Rick Wershe will end up living in a prison dorm, but it is the norm in the Florida corrections system.

In Oaks, the inmates had restricted cable TV. That is, some channels were blocked but many cable channels were available to the inmates. No such luck in Florida.

As the Florida Department of Corrections states on its web site:

“There are no correctional facilities with cable television. Television reception in our prisons is from the antennae only.”

CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, ESPN and Comedy Central are not options.

While Rick is in prison in Florida, he won’t starve but he’s not likely to be sending out letters raving about the cuisine, either.

Florida has “canteens” where inmates can get vending machine junk food such as Pop Tarts, pudding cups, Velveeta chili and cheese cups, pretzels, chips and similar fare. But they also have three regular meals per day which are carefully calibrated for caloric content, minimum daily nutrients and so forth. There’s no mention of what the stuff tastes like.

Breakfast is pretty much the same every day. The options include eggs, grits, potatoes, biscuits or bread, one piece of fresh fruit, coffee, one little pat of margarine, one little packet of jelly, one packet of sugar and something called a “breakfast beverage.”

A typical lunch is a modest portion of “torta” meat, which is ground or chopped meat like you’d find in a taco, a serving of rice, dried beans, some shredded cheese, a piece of bread and a “marinated vegetable medley” with a beverage, such as tea.

Dinner might be a piece of turkey ham, cheesy grits, a “marinated vegetable medley”, a piece of bread or a biscuit, a pat of margarine and a beverage.

The food list above was obtained from the Florida Department of Corrections web site. The menu doesn’t change much week in and week out.

The Informant America blog will keep you updated as more is learned about Rick Wershe’s new, temporary life, in Florida.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Rick Wershe is on his way to Florida

Rick Wershe is on his way to Florida to begin serving the remainder of his sentence in a car theft case.

He was removed this morning (Tuesday, August 22) from the Oaks Correctional Facility in Manistee, Michigan. 

No details were immediately available on where he will be imprisoned in Florida or when he is expected to arrive.

Wershe was paroled by the Michigan Parole Board last month after serving 29-and-a-half years of a life sentence for a conviction in 1988 for possession of drugs in excess of 650 grams.

His case has attracted national attention because he was recruited by the FBI at age 14 to become a paid informer, only to be dropped and left on his own. Wershe turned to the only trade he knew, the one law enforcement narcs had taught him. He tried to become a cocaine wholesaler but got caught. His case became a media sensation. He was smeared in the media over the years as "White Boy Rick", a drug kingpin and drug baron, even though there's no evidence to support those claims.

Wershe's attorney, Ralph Musilli, has described him as a political prisoner because "he told on the wrong people and he cost them a lot of money." He helped the FBI indict and convict corrupt police officers and Willie Volsan, the brother-in-law of former Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Rick Wershe is Afraid—He has Good Reason to Be

Last month, Richard J. Wershe, Jr., better known in the media as White Boy Rick, was at long last granted a parole from his Michigan life sentence for a non-violent drug conviction when he was a teenager. But he still has several years to serve in Florida in a car theft/fraud case where he pled guilty out of fear prosecutors would charge his mother and sister because they helped him in the car case. A Florida judge has turned down his petition for a three-day furlough which would allow Wershe to turn himself in. Now he must endure a potentially perilous trip to Florida on a private, for-profit prisoner transport bus. It could be the bus ride from hell.

Eight guys in a filthy caged bus. A bottle of water to drink each day. A fast-food sandwich three times a day, no place to urinate or defecate. No place to sleep. No meds, even if they are required. It would take too much time and time is money in the for-profit “extradition services” business. No stops for medical care. Rolling from one jail to another, picking up and dropping off prisoners, day and night. Some of the passengers aren’t even convicts. They are innocent-until-proven-guilty citizens who have been arrested in one place but wanted on charges in another place.

This is what Rick Wershe is facing in his transition from a prison in Michigan to a prison in Florida. Ever since his parole he’s been begging to be released on temporary furlough—three days—which would allow him to make his own way to Florida. A Florida judge has said, No. 

Rick knows what these transport services are like. He had to have an operation in Lansing a few years ago and he feared he would die. Not from the surgery. From the ride to and from the Lansing hospital.
The prisoner transport racket is one most Americans know nothing about. But it’s real, and it can be deadly.

The New York Times and the Marshall Project, a non-profit that encourages journalism about the many outrages and inequities of the criminal justice system, teamed on a harrowing, in-depth report on the prisoner transport business.

Michigan's Bridge magazine did a piece about horror stories in the Great Lakes State involving private prisoner vans.

This is the body of William Weintraub, a 47-year old former physics professor charged with making threats against a newspaper over an article he disputed. He died from a perforated ulcer. He had complained of stomach pain but his complaints were mocked and ignored by the transport crew. No charges were brought against the transport company. (Photo-Georgia Bureau of Investigation)

Prisoners riding in these rolling rat holes are regarded as sub-human. Their needs are inconsequential. They are bodies to be moved from A to B. The companies get paid between 75 cents and $1.50 per mile per prisoner. There's profit incentive to cram as many prisoners as possible in a single van.

Sanitation facilities are typically non-existent. Prisoners are told to pee in their empty water bottles. Some wind up defecating on the floor of the prisoner van or on themselves. There’s no time to stop for such things.

The transport crews take turns driving, often non-stop, 24-hours-a-day. Crew fatigue is common. So are collisions and accidents. Sometimes guards and prisoners get injured or killed. Hey. It’s the cost of doing business.

This prisoner van crashed in to a semi-trailer at 1:24 in the morning on a highway in Georgia. Two guards and a prisoner were killed. Investigators think the guard who was driving fell asleep at the wheel. (Photo: Greene County, GA. Sheriff's Office)

These shady operators keep getting contracts with state corrections departments and individual jails because they are cheaper than sending sheriff’s deputies to get prisoners who are behind bars in another state.

Twenty-six states, including Michigan and Florida, use these shabby, shoddy “extradition services” as a way of saving taxpayer money. If the inmate’s rights get abused, who cares? This is a nation that’s tough on crime, by golly.

These “corporations” that treat their cargo like scum get sued from time to time. When they lose in court, they just go out of business and pop up as a new corporation, a new bottom feeder of the criminal “justice” system.

It’s hard to say how long Rick Wershe will have to endure an “extradition services” ride.

One man in suburban Los Angeles was arrested for posting an “I Love You” note on Facebook to his 13-year old daughter in violation of a non-contact restraining order in a bitter divorce battle. In Florida. The judge in Florida wanted him returned to face the charge of violating the restraining order.

David Hastings was hauled eight-thousand miles in a zig-zag trip across 31 states for what should have been a 2,600-mile trip. He was wearing nothing but a white paper jail-issue jump suit with his hands and feet shackled. He shared a prisoner van with a total of 33 other prisoners over a period of 15 days. Hastings has a congenital heart condition. He charges he was denied his meds. He thought he was going to die in the van. He wasn't a convict. He was on his way to face charges.

The Florida Department of Corrections will negotiate with the private transport company on when they want Rick Wershe in a Florida lock-up. That will determine how long he will be on this trip through hell.

By the way, the notion of pleading with a Florida judge for mercy is a bitter joke. When Wershe was charged in the Florida case, the state attorney general’s office had a choice of a county where they could bring charges. They selected Martin County, about a hundred miles north of Miami, above West Palm Beach. It is the quintessential law-and-order jurisdiction.

In a conversation a while back, Rick told me the story of when he was brought to Martin County for arraignment on the car case charges. He was placed in the Martin County jail for his court appearance the next day. Rick says a friendly jail matron asked, “What are you in here for, honey?” He told her his story.

“Oh Honey!” she said. “They intend to hang your ass! That’s why they got you here! We got us a hangin’ bench in this county!”

The sympathetic matron didn’t mean hanging in the literal sense. She meant Rick was up against throw-the-book-at-‘em judges. 

In Martin County, Florida, the judges have a reputation for liking to punish people. It doesn’t matter who Rick Wershe has for a lawyer. He/she is not likely to find any mercy in a Martin County courtroom.

The ordeal of Richard J. Wershe, Jr. is not over yet.

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