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.

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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

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