NewsLocal News


UPDATE: Zach Wester NOT transferred to Hawaii prison

Zach Wester
Posted at 6:00 PM, Sep 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-08 17:29:54-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — The former Jackson County deputy convicted of planting drugs during traffic stops was incorrectly reported to be transferred to a prison in Hawaii due to a "VINE" error.

The Florida Department of Corrections confirmed to ABC 27 that the updated information on Zach Wester's location was an error; however, they can not disclose his current location.

Inmate Zachary Wester is not in Hawaii, however his status is undisclosed for protection. We are unable to confirm any details related to him.

Any information previously disclosed on our website and through VINE was done so in error and should not be used to determine the location of this inmate.

-Florida Department of Corrections

The former Jackson County deputy convicted of planting drugs during traffic stops is now a prisoner in Hawaii.

Zachary Wester was sentenced to over 12 years in prison in July after his conviction on charges of racketeering, official misconduct, fabricating evidence, perjury, false imprisonment, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

The jury found him guilty of planting evidence during traffic stops and falsifying arrest reports. He was found not guilty on charges in nine other traffic stops.

According to the Florida Department of Corrections website, Wester’s “current facility” he’s being held in is listed as Hawaii.

Why are prisoners transferred?

According to new research in the Harvard Law Review from New York University law professor Emma Kaufman, there are 10,000 to 20,000 state prisoners living outside their state of conviction.

State inmate transfers span more than 1,200 miles on average, Kaufman found, and transfers are more likely in some states than others. As of 2019, Hawaii had transferred about 45% of its prisoners, according to Kaufman’s data. About 15% of prisoners in Vermont have been exported. New Hampshire and Wyoming have each transferred about 5% of their prisoners to other parts of the country.

As to why individual prisoners are transferred, Kaufman says authorities might have reasonable explanations for transferring inmates. For example, they may be moved to facilities that can better meet their health needs or prison officials might use transfers as retribution against powerful prisoners or those capable of organizing protests.

Today, the practice of trading prisoners across state lines has been upheld by courts as legal and is increasingly common, but it is concentrated in certain states. It’s not unconstitutional for someone convicted of a crime in Massachusetts, say burglary, to end up serving his time in Arizona or Alaska.

Kaufman also said states that generally oppose new prison construction have some of the highest rates of prisoner transfer.

Perhaps most importantly, Kaufman reiterates that some prison transfers are for good reasons.

It’s important to note that there are some circumstances in which transfers are good... let’s imagine a particularly vulnerable prisoner, like a former police officer who is well known and cannot be kept safe. Or a person who has acute health care needs and goes to a prison in a neighboring state that has the capacity to treat those needs. If you were from Massachusetts and traveled to Florida and committed a crime there, you might want to serve your time in Massachusetts. There are lots of these sorts of transfers where I think even people concerned about prison conditions would be hard pressed to say, 'This is problematic.' So I think we need to sort out when transfers are a good idea.

-Emma Kaufman

Interestingly, in Hawaii, nearly half of all prisoners are transferred out of state.