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.”

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