Steffany “Stet” Frazier was convicted in 1994 of crack cocaine possession with the intent to sell, and was given a life sentence under the harsh edicts of the drug war and the 100-to-one crack cocaine sentencing ratio. This ratio—which has since been lowered—resulted in harsher penalties for defendants who sold crack, than those caught with larger amounts of powder cocaine. The disparity targeted African American men at troubling rates, due to the hysteria around the crack epidemic.
Richard "White Boy Rick" Wershe is an iconic figure straight out of the 1980s Detroit crack era. His legend as a drug dealer far outstrips the truth of his situation. He has spent the last 28 years in prison due to that notoriety, an infamy that has ignited Hollywood movie interest, but his time inside might be over soon.
The story of White Boy Rick has gone viral this past week with major news agencies like ABC, CNN, FOX and Yahoo running headlines about his resentencing, which is scheduled for September 18. A date when he will have the chance to possibly go home after having served 28 years in prison for a non-violent drug offense under Michigan’s draconian "650-lifer law," which has since been wiped from the books. Great news for all his supporters and the numerous writers who have covered his story and been outraged at the injustice of his case. But this resentencing is just the latest stage in his story. It was earlier this year that Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe’s profile made a splash on the national forum when several Hollywood movie heavyweights took an interest in his story—a key determining factor in the most recent decisions affecting his case and chance for freedom.
“All the homeboys are using crystal,” an LA street-gang member from the Neighborhood Bloods, says. Tick-Tockdumping kilos of yayo on Los Angeles’ streets. “Blood, Crip, it doesn’t matter. They are all going crazy on crystal. It’s the new big thing in LA. It's rapid.”
Last week, The New York Times reported that President Obama plans to use clemency to free a multitude of nonviolent drug offenders. Everything is pointing to Obama using his clemency powers to free dozens of federal drug offenders, if not more. This will be a historic moment and a new foray into righting the wrongs of the drug war by Obama. He has been working steadily at correcting the draconian drug laws of the past but for many of those in prison it has been too little and too late. His track record in this forum has been spottyto say the least.
During his first term in office President Obama declined to use his executive clemency powers, instead waiting until the end of his fifth year in office to grant just eight commutations and 13 pardons. In an interview with the Huffington Post, the President blamed the Office of the Pardon Attorney for his dismal clemency record, claiming that those who were overseeing the process—former Bush Administration employees—were only sending him "small-time crimes from long ago," meaning those seeking pardons for sentences already served. Also in the interview, Obama said that he had "revamped" the
At every single correctional facility in the US, a drug network something like the one I’m about to outline operates and prospers. Take it from me—I was recently released from federal prison after spending 21 years of my life inside.
While you may read about the drug smuggling ventures that are busted, you’re unlikely to hear so often about the operations that are successful. To help explain one of these systems, I got in touch with a man I’ll call “Divine.” He’s a black, 50-something, very suave type of hustler, clean cut and ripped up from working out. A native New Yorker, his prowess as a drug dealer is even celebrated in hip-hop’s lyrical lore. He is now doing life in the feds. But his occupation in prison brings him money and power, and the all-important prestige of being The Man. He agreed to anonymously break down how it all works for Substance.com.
“I have been getting drugs into the BOP [federal Bureau of Prisons] since the ‘80s,” Divine tells me. A career criminal, he has already done several bids in the feds and has been doing time since he was in his early 20s.
(artwork by Jesse Anderson)
Every time he got out, he would go right back to his trade on the streets of New York. Eventually he would get violated or catch a new case, leading him to continue his vocation in prison, where he has become a top-class operator: He has never once been caught for his illicit activities inside the belly of the beast.
“Whenever I hit a compound, the first thing I do is see who has what going on,” Divine says. “If there is an established structure, I just tap into it. If not, I create my own from the ground up. It’s not that hard.”
Illegal drugs are the number one contraband item and commodity in every correctional facility. Dudes in prison, where isolation, boredom and stress are rife, will sell their souls to feed their addictions, and men like Divine play on that hunger.
Finding mules to bring the drugs in is the first order of business.
“It’s usually pretty easy,” Divine says. “I just look for some white boy that gets a lots of visits. Preferably one with a girl and some kids that come to see him every weekend. Finding someone who is out on the dance floor regularly and who has a lot of activity going on around him when he is out there is the best route.”
“To be honest, and I am not proud to say this,” he continues, “kids are the best cover when you are swallowing balloons. The kids distract the guards because they are so hyper and that allows the dude’s baby mama to pass him the balloons to swallow undetected.” The balloons can be passed mouth-to-mouth in a kiss or put into food items like sandwiches or chip bags.
An elaborate system has to be put in place to even get to this point, though. As soon as Divine finds a suitable candidate to mule the drugs in, he has to put everything to work. That is where his expertise comes in, as well as his reputation: Divine is known as a man that makes things happen when it comes to getting drugs into prison—even though he never touches the drugs himself.
“As soon as I find someone to bring the drugs in I make a call to an old friend [on the street] and let them know it’s going down,” Divine says. He relays the information to his friend about when the visit is taking place, the address to send the prepackaged drugs to, and where to wire the money to pay the mule’s family. This is all done outside the prison and put into action with one phone call.
Since the authorities are probably listening in (unless he happens to have access to a smuggled cell), the information has to be relayed in code. “I got everything set up with my people on the outside already,” says Divine. “They know when I call and say certain words or phrases that I am setting up a move. I have been doing this so long that it’s like clockwork.”
Once the visit date is set, Divine’s people in New York procure the drugs—be it heroin, weed or Oxys—package them up into balloons and mail them to the visitor who will bring them in to their loved one. The benefits for the mule are money for his family and free drugs for himself.
Once the drugs are finally in the institution, the real action starts. “When I know the move is about to happen I get some of my homeboys to set themselves up to sell the packets,” Divine says. Others are recruited to collect the drugs from the mule, stash them and package them prior to sale. Again, Divine himself never touches the drugs.
He likes to keep it a New York thing. He will use outside guys if he has to but prefers to employ his own people. “New York dudes just know how to do it better,” he claims. “And they know how to keep their mouths shut when the shit goes down.”
For collection and security purposes, Divine will always also recruit a couple of enforcers—known thugs in the prison who everyone is afraid of, “vicious dudes who see everything in black-and-white,” as he describes them. “It’s easy to find them. They are looking for excuses to smash people and I give them the justification that they need to follow their base impulses.” His enforcers will go to lengths to look out for Divine because he is in essence feeding them by making the moves happen. If someone doesn’t pay or there is a problem, he sticks his thugs on them and they mete out the beat-downs.
As the drugs are sold, payments are collected—in many different forms. A lot of smaller transactions are completed using commissary. This means that Divine will give someone a list of items to buy on the one day a week they can go to the prison store. They’ll buy shoes, sweats, shorts, food or hygiene items using the money in their prison account and bring them to him or his people in a laundry bag. Stamps are another common method of payment, because they’re small but have significant value when stacked up.
Then there are street-to-street transactions. This is when you direct one of your family members or friends on the street to send money to an address supplied by the person you owe. Let’s say you owe me $800; I can give you my girl’s address and you call your people and tell them to send or wire $800 to my girl. Even though the drug deals take place in prison, most of the money changes hands on the outside, whether to enrich the dealer’s family members, pay off his associates, or build a pile ready for the dealer when he comes out.
You can also send or wire money out to a person directly from your prison account. A lot of people in prison have tens of thousands on these accounts. Anything over $500 is supposed to be flagged and investigated, but you can just say you’re sending it out for your children or something.
Whatever form the payments take, due to the rules of supply and demand in a restricted environment, Divine makes a killing.
“Off of one gram of heroin, which costs $75-100 on the street, I can get back $1,200,” he tells me. “One gram breaks down into 12 $100 pieces. That is what I get back. My guys handle all the commissary and stamps and do send-outs or street-to-street transactions to my people on the streets. That is how I get paid.”
Everyone who works on the move is compensated, whether with money, drugs, commissary, stamps or just prestige. “Some guys want to be involved for money, some for the drugs, but some just want to be down and associated with me,” Divine says.
“When you have a name and you are established and dudes know who you are, it is easy to get people to do your bidding. I am not a bad guy, a tyrant or even the toughest dude around, but I am fair and firm. If you perform for me, I make sure you get paid. If you got drugs coming, then you got drugs coming. Everybody gets paid when I do a move. It just works out better that way and enables me to do what I do.”
Anyone can get busted. Anyone can get sloppy or complacent. In the drug business in prison, you always have to be on your toes and figuring out every eventuality—because while you are thinking about your money and making plans with it, someone else is thinking about your money and making plans with it also. Someone can always snitch.
But Divine keeps himself clean. He has people to handle both the drugs and the proceeds. He has guys around him to protect him from prison rivals, and a diplomatic persona that keeps him out of trouble. It’s almost impossible to obtain hard evidence to connect him with the drugs, and if the authorities know who he is, it’s only through hearsay.
Sure, he’s been under investigation, but he’s always been able to withstand the pressure. If he gets thrown in the hole, shipped out to another prison or harassed, he just rides it out, acts like he’s doing nothing wrong and starts again. Even if he did get caught, he would just be facing a little time—and he already has life.
Everyone in Divine’s system has an interest in preserving it—the addicts on the compound, the sellers, the packagers and stash handlers, the mules, the enforcers and especially Divine, who runs the whole operation and pockets the majority of the profits. It’s all driven by the cunning and personality of one man. Perhaps the buzz Divine gets from being that man is one way of compensating himself for having to spend his life behind bars. And men like Divine exist on every prison yard.
A few days ago at 6:30 am, just as I was getting ready to go to work, I got called down to the front desk of my halfway house in St. Louis. I have lived here for the past two months since being released from federal prison after doing 21 years of a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence for a drug conspiracy.
“Do you have your ID?” the desk clerk asked me.
It was time for a drug test. One of the conditions of my release to the halfway house is that I’m required to take a breathalyzer every time I return from a work, business, or recreation pass. I’m also tested for drugs once or twice a week.
But so far, every drug test had been a swab test, which is painless and quick—way easier to do than the urine samples I had to submit while incarcerated. But this time, for some reason, they wanted urine.
I have always found it hard to piss on command. Not because I am using drugs—I have been clean and sober since 2002—but because the whole act of pissing in a cup while somebody watches me is uncomfortable. Being somewhat used to it doesn’t make it much easier.
So here I am, first thing in the morning, ready to sign out on a pass and get to work by 8 am. Trouble was, I had just taken my morning piss and didn’t need to use the bathroom. I told the clerk this. He gave me a 12-ounce cup of water and told me to drink it and wait.
He also told me that I couldn’t drink any water besides the one cup he was giving me. I had to sit in the waiting area where he could see me until I was ready to go.
Bureau of Prisons drug-test policy states that “an inmate is presumed to be unwilling” if he or she doesn’t urinate within a two-hour period. In the halfway house, I’m still technically in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons, so their rules apply to me. The urine test procedure is the same as it was in prison—but in prison I had less to lose.
This means that failure to provide a urine sample for the halfway house within two hours would be considered the same as providing a dirty sample. I would be put on administrative hold at the facility, which would effectively end my new freedom and my job, and could potentially even result in my return to prison.
I was sweating it—even though I haven’t taken so much as an aspirin or Motrin since coming to the halfway house because I don’t want there to be a chance of anything showing up in the tests.
For me, using drugs or alcohol is not an option and not even something I want to do again. I identify as an addict and worked the BOP’s Residential Drug Abuse Program program, although I don’t personally use a 12-step program. I wake up every morning and say I will not use drugs and alcohol today, and that has worked for me for over 10 years. Drug use would only get in the way of the things I wish to accomplish—first off, maintaining my freedom.
As I sat there waiting to provide a urine sample, I thought how embarrassing it would be to have to call my job, working as a courier for a law firm, and tell them I couldn’t come to work because I couldn’t piss in a cup. Then I imagined having to break the news to my wife, who I have finally been able to spend time with after losing so much of our lives together due to my prison sentence. My reality was either piss in the cup before the two hours was up or say goodbye to it all.
I was putting pressure on myself to perform. I wanted to go to work and I wanted my recreation pass later that day to see my wife. But doubt clawed at me. What happened if I couldn’t piss? I was in agony, for real.
Finally at 8:15 am—15 minutes after I was supposed to be at work and 15 minutes before I would have failed the test—I got myself together and provided the sample.
To say I was relieved after an hour and 45 minutes of stress is an understatement. I could go out into the world again. It was like a breath of fresh air.
This is what I am dealing with as I regain my freedom and adjust to the world. I have a six-month term in the halfway house and I am two months into it: January 27, 2015 is my finish date.
I try to stay busy and work as much as possible. The halfway house has a tiered system: I started out at Level One, which means you get no passes. Then after orientation I was moved up to Level Two, which meant I could get passes to search for jobs.
I found a couple of different jobs right away. But when they discovered I was in the halfway house they decided they didn’t want me. I have found that the stigma of being an ex-con just released from prison is real. Being discriminated against is not something I am used to, but I am dealing with it.
But through my friends and family I eventually found two jobs that would take me—a night job as a line cook in a restaurant, as well as the daytime courier job. After a couple of weeks to get the paperwork done, I started working regularly, initially staying at Level Two and only being allowed out of the halfway house to work.
It wasn’t bad. I was out in the world, driving, working and making money. I didn’t get to see my wife very much, but that would soon change. After paying my subsistence fee—handing over 25% of the gross of each of my paychecks to the halfway house—I advanced to Level Three and began getting six-hour recreation passes. This meant I could finally go home and spend time with my wife.
By the end of September I had moved up to Level Four. I should soon be given a pass for my first weekend visit—a chance to go home for the whole weekend. I am looking forward to this because I will be able to spend the night with my wife for the first time in 21 years. Waking up with her and holding her all night seemed like a pipe dream during all those years in prison. Now it is about to be a reality.
Being trusted to go out in the community and work to make a living is really big for me. When I got that first paycheck I was very happy. I took a photo of myself holding the check and posted it on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter (forms of technology that I have just discovered for the first time).
The next step for me will be Level Five, which means home confinement, with attendance at the halfway house required at certain times. I am hoping that that will happen by November 1.
Being here is all about accountability. Passing the drug tests and breathalyzers, being on time to check in, being where I’m supposed to be when I’m supposed to be there, going to my drug treatment aftercare classes twice a week and in general being on good behavior all helps to prove that I belong out in the free world.
Prison already seems like such a long time ago. It is receding into the background and the life I had before I went to prison is starting to come back. It is like my mind is compartmentalizing those 21 years and filing them away.
My past will always be there but I don’t wake up thinking I am in prison. I just can’t wait to go to work in the morning so I can be in the halfway house as little as possible. I don’t associate with the other people in here. I don’t know what they are doing and for real, I don’t care.
I have my wife and my family. I have goals I want to accomplish, things I want to do and learn. New technology is crazy—tablets and smartphones everywhere. I always think people are calling to me but it turns out they are talking on their phones with a Bluetooth. And I don’t even smoke, but when I see that a carton of smokes is like $50 and gas is $3-something, it’s insane. When I got locked up, a carton of smokes was around $8 and gas was around $1.
But other than that, I think I have adapted well so far, even though a lot of people told me I would have a hard time. I am wholeheartedly embracing this adventure. It’s just terrifying how close my inability to piss in a cup came to ending it.
Prison is a place where racial hatred is routine, where gangs rule the roost and heroin is the most valuable commodity. “A white person in prison is in deep trouble if he doesn’t have people to stand with him,” one prisoner tells The Fix. “The guards can’t do nothing. All they can do is prosecute the winner.” And there are few bigger winners in the feds than the Aryan Brotherhood.
Despite some high-profile crackdowns against the gang in recent years, its grip on many facilities remains strong. “I just came from USP Lompoc [in Southern California] and the AB is running that yard,” the prisoner says. “The drugs are flowing. They got Atwater, Victorville, Canaan, Hazleton, Florence, Marion, Big Sandy and Coleman on lock. They are all over the system. The feds can’t stop anything.”
The AB is one of the nation’s “big four” prison-born gangs, along with the Mexican Mafia, the Black Guerilla Family and the Nuestra Familia. The “Brand,” as it's also known, is estimated to have over 15,000members and associates nationwide, half behind bars and half on the street. The gang was born in the violent California prison system of the ‘60s, reflecting the racial tensions of the times. “The mentality back then was ‘kill whitey,’” says an old-timer who did time back then. “In the beginning, the AB had one true purpose: to stop blacks and Mexicans from abusing whites. If you weren’t picked up by the AB, you were dead.”
But if you wanted to join, all you had to do—belying claims of a merely defensive purpose—was to kill, or attempt to kill, a black or Mexican inmate. The Brand’s motto was “Blood in, blood out”—meaning once you spilled blood in order to join, the only way you were leaving was in a body bag. The AB’s leaders read Machiavelli, Nietzsche, Sun Tzu, Tolkien and the old standby, Mein Kampf. They touted their white supremacist ideals with tattoos, such as Nazi swastikas and lightning bolts (for the SS), and Celtic and Viking symbols to represent Anglo-Saxon and Nordic roots. The shamrock cloverleaf was a key ink ID.
But the AB long ago subordinated its racist ideology to the acquisition of money. “The leadership became much more interested in power than race and started muscling in on the gambling, extortion and dope rackets,” the old-timer says. As part of its bid to exert control over these prison “industries,” the AB adopted a structure in the ‘80s similar to the Italian Mafia—with a three-man ruling commission and a formal hierarchy, with orders sent down the chain of command. The gang started operating as a full-fledged criminal enterprise. The Brand eventually ran much of the drug trafficking, gambling and prostitution behind the walls, and plenty more on the outside. They use murder or the threat of it to enforce their authority.
The Brand’s prison trafficking operations are legend. Mules smuggle in heroin, marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine wrapped in balloons, condemns or cellophane, either by swallowing up to a dozen a time or by “keistering” them. Black tar heroin is especially profitable and easy to cop from AB’s outside sources. Serving life sentences, often in 24-hour lockdown at Pelican Bay or ADX Florence, AB kingpins still control the flow of drugs into prisons nationwide, by sending out “kites”—coded operational instructions passed through the mail or via bribed prison staff, visits, lawyers or other inmates.
The leaders also order stabbings and murders. Prisoners have been killed for transgressions as minor as making disparaging remarks about the Brand, as court documents show. According to the FBI, gang members constitute under 1% of the total federal prison population but commit up to 20% of the murders inside the system. “They have become a bloody organization that enforce their will through murder and chaos in prisons across the country,” a correctional officer says. “They will stab another inmate in full view of correctional staff. These guys do not play.”
Prison authorities often look the other way when it comes to the lesser evil of trafficking. The Brand’s leaders wield so much control that they effectively serve as powerbrokers to maintain order. “Prison is where these guys live. We only punch the clock,” the correctional officer tells The Fix. “If you are going to spend the rest of your life in prison, why not be an AB member? They live like kings.” That power is maintained largely by drugs. “Selling heroin to fellow convicts generates a lot of money for the Brand,” says the officer. “Several hundred thousand a year from a single prison. And how many yards do they control? You do the math.”
But the violence involved in running the drug trade is increasingly threatening the gang’s dominance, if not survival. A series of federal investigations into the Brand have had the effect of widely publicizing the brotherhood's activities. Some court records from 2007, for example, state that the Aryan Brotherhood sought “to launch a cooperative effort of death and fear against staff and other inmates in order to take over the system.” But even as AB leaders are dragged into court and convicted, the life sentences they often receive are mere slaps on the wrist for men who already know they will die behind bars.
One of the first and most notorious targets of the feds was Michael “Big Mac” McElhiney, who sits, to this day, on the Brand’s governing body. Having been in and out of the California State prison system for years, Big Mac was a long-time Brand member whose body was covered in tattoos—including a shamrock in the middle of his chest. In 1989 he became a federal prisoner serving 21 years and 10 months for possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute, conspiracy to murder a witness and illegal possession of a firearm. In fall 1994 Big Mac arrived at USP Leavenworth, known as "the hothouse" for its small, sweltering cells, where the Brand’s presence was already strong. Big Mac, already a prison celebrity due to his AB status, was immediately surrounded by a fearsome group on the yard and handed the keys to the white boy car.
“For the whites, anything that we did, we had to answer to Big Mac," the younger prisoner, who was there at the time, tells The Fix. "He likes to have everybody know he’s God.” Big Mac soon complained about the "lack" of drugs on the yard. So he started to canvass the population for vulnerable prisoners: drug addicts and men who were in debt, or simply scared. “He could sway the weaker inmates to have their people bring in drugs,” the correctional officer says. “The visiting room is the main route for drug smuggling into the prison.”
In the visiting room at Leavenworth, prisoners and their girlfriends or wives—and other women, desperate for money—can kiss once when they greet each other and once when they part. A balloon containing two grams of heroin is smaller than a marble and can easily be passed mouth-to-mouth. The prisoner swallows the balloon and later regurgitates it or lets it pass through his body. Those kisses form part of a major entry port, with an estimated 95% of Leavenworth’s drugs entering through visits.
The Fascinating Story of 'White Boy Rick': Feds Made Him a Drug Kingpin at Age 14, Then Threw Him in Prison for Life
Meet Richard Wershe. To other convicts in the Michigan penal system and the handful of DEA and FBI agents who once employed him as an informant, Wershe is known by the memorable moniker, White Boy Rick. Wershe was a baby-faced, blond-haired teenager who grew up in the the middle-class fringes of Metro Detroit in the 1980s. Around the time he hit puberty, he transformed into White Boy Rick, a prolific drug dealer and teenage prodigy in the cutthroat and vicious streets of the Motor City. He ranked as high in the public imagination as colorful Detroit drug heavyweights the Chambers Brothers, Maserati Rick and the notorious Best Friends. By the time he was 16, he was dating the mayor of Detroit's beautiful niece. White Boy Rick had arrived.
He had also been recruited as one of the DEA's prized confidential informants two years earlier, when he was 14. According to Wershe, a federal narcotics task force consisting of officers from the Detroit Police Department, the FBI and the DEA pushed him into the role of drug lord and played up his image. "They turned me into an urban legend," Rick says from a payphone at the Oaks Correctional Facility, near the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.
"I was just a kid when the agents pulled me out of high school in the ninth grade and had me out to three in the morning every night. They gave me a fake ID when I was 15 that said I was 21 so I could travel to Vegas and to Miami to do drug deals." Rick ended his relationship with authorities after serving two years as an informant. Less than a year later, he was arrested for possession with intent to deliver 650 grams of cocaine. He wasn't even 18.
Wershe was pinched on the same Detroit street where he grew up, carrying the drugs, $25,000 in cash, and driving a shiny new Ford Thunderbird that was registered in his girlfriend's name. She was five years older than him, married to Eastside drug kingpin Johnny Curry, and, as luck would have it, the niece of Mayor Coleman Young. Authorities later found eight kilos of cocaine that they linked to Wershe. On January 15, 1988, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison under Michigan's draconian 650 lifer law, which has since been abolished.
White Boy Rick remains incarcerated, with no maximum release date. For the past 25 years, he has watched a steady parade of gang leaders convicted of much more violent offenses return to the streets—including Curry, whom White Boy Rick's undercover work helped put in jail. Members of the murderous “Best Friends” gang have also been released. Last June, the Supreme Court banned mandatory life sentences for minors—even for murder—and yet White Boy Rick will stay in prison, serving a life sentence as a first-time, non-violent offense.
"What has happened to this man is a travesty of justice of monumental proportions," says Wershe's attorney, Ralph Musilli. "From the time he was a small boy he's been exploited and prostituted by the United States government, and when the feds squeezed everything they could possibly get out of him, they threw him away like a piece of garbage."
So why did the authorities turn on Wershe? It started when he helped the feds investigate drug corruption in the Detroit Police Department. The answer is, somehow, not shocking.
White Boy Rick had been locked up by the DPD on a trumped-up charge, so he turned on his former handlers in the police department, including then-Chief William Hart, Sergeant James Harris, and the mayor’s brother-in-law, Willie Volson, along with several other Detroit police officers. Wershe claimed the had been involved in unloading and guarded fake cocaine shipments from a plane at Detroit City Airport. Officers sealed the airport perimeter and gave the drug dealers—who were actually undercover FBI agents—a police radio to help them avoid detection. Rick had "vouched" for the FBI agents to the corrupt cops. The subsequent police corruption case was the largest in Detroit history.
"The events surrounding the incarceration of Richard Wershe in 1987 are a classic example of abuse of power and political corruption," says retired FBI agent Gregg Schwarz, who worked on the police corruption sting. Schwarz claims that the agents who promised Rick something in return for his cooperation in the sting reneged on their deal.
Wershe is credited with helping the government disrupt several of the Detroit's most brutal drug gangs in the '80s, including 30 members of the "Best Friends" crack-dealing crew, whom agents say killed more than 80 people. Wershe's cooperation into the police corruption case led to 14 convictions of law enforcement officers and public officials. Ironically, some of the most notorious drug dealers and killers that White Boy Rick helped convict—as well as all the policemen—now are free.
The truth of the matter is that White Boy Rick helped law enforcement crack some of the most notorious drug crimes in Detroit. "I never imagined I would still be sitting here in prison," Rick says. "I'm here because of the misinformation that's been given to the parole board, the lies—agents said under oath that I never worked for the Detroit Police Department, they said I never worked for the government, that I was this huge drug dealer. The FBI and police lied about this for more than two decades. I just want the truth to finally come out." According to Wershe and other, the truth is that the feds used a kid to do their dirty work and then lied about it to cover it up.
White Boy Rick is a poster child for what is wrong with the War on Drugs. How is it possible that a confidential informant, who provided valuable information to multiple agencies of a federal task force and who was supplied with drugs, money and assistance by the feds to facilitate narcotic transactions still be locked up after 25 years of incarceration? It's a good question. Sadly, there are no acceptable answers.
Federal prisons are full of drug offenders—more than 90,000 of them, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released this week. Yet only about a third of those prisoners— most of them low-level drug dealers, users and addicts—are receiving treatment to combat their addictions. “Its really tragic,” one longtime federal prisoner tells The Fix. “The feds lock up all these crackheads and junkies and then don’t even give them any programs to get them off drugs. Worse still, the one drug program they do have, RDAP, has all types of restrictions on who can get in, for what crime, etc. If you don’t fit the specific criteria, you can’t get in.”