Changing the narrative: Detroit woman released after nearly 20 years in prison aims to help others

Tracy Cowan is free after Governor Gretchen Whitmer commutes her sentence
Detroit woman freed after Governor Whitmer commutes her sentence plans to help others
Posted at 4:36 PM, Jan 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-29 16:36:41-05

DETROIT, Mich. — She’s spent nearly 20 years behind bars on gun and drug charges but now Tracy Cowan is a free woman after Governor Gretchen Whitmer commuted her sentence.

Cowan says she is glad to be free but there’s still work to be done to help out other women who find themselves in her situation.

“She did 18 and half years!” exclaims Richard Wershe Jr.

“I did more time than Norega. He used to be a drug Lord,” said Tracy Cowan.

Call it guilty by association but 60-year-old Tracy Cowan has a history of connections to Detroit drug dealers.

Cowan has children with Maserati Rick, an 80s drug Lord who was infamously killed when a hitman dressed in scrubs came into his hospital room and killed him in his bed, while he was recovering from a previous shooting.

After his death Cowan dated, worked and raised her children but a causal relationship with another drug dealer would eventually land her in prison.

“I got charged with the drugs that were in the house. It was like a kilo of cocaine, a pound of marijuana and two guns,” said Cowan.

In 2003, Cowan was charged and eventually sentenced to serve up to 40 years.

Her boyfriend got 11 years.

Prison reform advocates say Cowan’s case isn’t uncommon. Many women involved with criminals get tougher sentences than their partners.

State Representative Tenisha Yancey says she saw the miscarriage of justice in Cowan’s case and knew she had to help.

“Not only was she the girlfriend of the actual criminal but she was charged and served more time than he did. That was very unfair and unjust," said Yancey.

Yancey and Rick Wershe Junior also known as White Boy Rick worked to get Cowan’s sentence commuted.

Wershe spent 32 years behind bars himself on drug trafficking charges and says he sees a trend of poor people being hit with harsh sentences.

He says he spent months and months talking to lawmakers trying to build support for Cowan’s release.

“You know I go to meet with a State Senator. I said Senator I just want to ask you one thing. How is this woman a threat? He said, she’s not. Then I said why is she incarcerated?” said Wershe.

In December, all that hard work paid off when Governor Gretchen Whitmer granted the commutation.

On Thursday, Cowan was released after 18 and half years.

She says she found ways to stay optimistic despite her stiff sentence by becoming a “jailhouse lawyer” and advocating for others.

Cowan says the disparities women inmates face need to be addressed and she plans to dedicate her life to advocating for change.

“I just want to say remember the ladies. When you talk about prison reform remember the ladies. This just does not have a male narrative,” said Cowan.

Since Cowan is starting over, her supporters have started up a GoFundMe to support her efforts to rebuild her life.

We have a link to the fundraiser here: GoFundMe for Tracy Cowan

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