Below is a op-ed written by Metro Detroit high school student Aliya Rockind on the tragic tale of imprisoned former teenage drug dealer Richard (White Boy Rick) Wershe, the longest-serving non-violent offender in the state of Michigan’s Department of Corrections going on 30 years behind bars for a single narcotics arrest he took when he was 17 years old in 1987. Wershe was recruited to be a drug dealer when he was just 14 by a federal drug task force made up of the FBI, DEA and Detroit Police Department, encouraged to drop out of ninth grade and work on the government’s dime as a mole inside the murderous Motor City underworld for the next two years. At the time of Wershe’s brush with the law in 1987, he was no longer working for the government. He’s currently 47 and has been rejected for parole every time he’s gone in front of the parole board.

Here’s Rockind’s take on the situation (note Aliya is the same age now as Wershe was when he was arrested):


Once again, the government has failed yet another individual. In the 80s, the Detroit Police Department used the young Rick Wershe as a rat in order to cut down neighborhood drug dealing.

As time passed, Wershe became increasingly involved with the dangerous drug scene that inhabited Detroit. As a 17 year old, Wershe was found out by a neighborhood drug dealer, and was shot.

The D.P.D. abandoned him, leaving him absolutely hopeless. So ultimately, he turned to the community he knew best: the drug scene. Wershe became seriously involved in hard-core drug dealing, and in 1988, he was convicted as a juvenile for possession of more than 650 grams of cocaine.

As punishment for his crime, he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. At the time, this was the consequence for his actions, but times have changed, and so have the laws within the constitution.

The Supreme Court has rule that juvenile individuals were entitled to possibility of parole when sentenced to life in prison. It is now 2016, Rick Wershe is 46 years old, and still being held in prison. With this change, Wershe was extremely hopeful of the result for appealing his case in order to receive a lighter sentence. But, yet again, the judicial system has failed to recognize one’s entitlement, resulting in the court of appeals ultimately denied his request. This is extremely unfair for Wershe.

The constitution has changed, and considering he was convicted as a juvenile, so should his sentence. I personally believe that no one should have their life ripped away from them for drugs, but especially not someone who’s entire involvement in the drug scene was initiated by the police department. The government failed Wershe back in the 80s when the Detroit police department abandoned him after being shot, and unsurprisingly, has failed him once again twenty-eight years later. Rick Wershe should have received justice for once, but will unfortunately never receive it.

Criminal injustice is a serious problem in today’s society, and it is important to recognize individuals like my father, Neil Rockind, who have taken notice of this issue, and try their hardest every day to defeat it. Let’s hope to never see another individual treated the way Rick Wershe was ever again.

Thank you for your time,

Aliya Rockind, junior at Seaholm High School

Rockind’s father, Neil ,is a former prosecutor, one of the top criminal-defense attorneys in the Detroit area and a vocal advocate for Wershe’s release. Aliya’s insightful op-ed piece first appeared on her dad’s law firm’s website last week. (See original posting here).

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