Rush to Justice

An East Texas cop, a drug addict, a convict, a novelist—and now a policy wonk? Absolutely, says Kim Wozencraft, whose rallying cry is prison reform.

On a cold february afternoon in 1979, several years before the success of her autobiographical novel Rush would take her far from her life in Texas as an undercover narcotics cop and eventual drug addict, Kim Wozencraft made a choice that forever changed her life: While making a drug buy from one of the nearly one hundred Tyler-area dealers whom she was trying to send to prison, she decided that she would rather shoot up than risk blowing her cover.

At the time, Wozencraft was in her early twenties. She had recently graduated from Lake Highlands High School in Dallas, where she ran track, played church-league softball, and—at her wildest—sipped strawberry wine on Saturday nights with her girlfriends. Soon after joining the Tyler Police Department, she started working undercover in local honky-tonks, befriending anyone who might be willing to sell drugs. Often without her partner, and never with any official police backup, she would meet the dealers in cheap motels or dingy apartments and buy anything from a few ounces of pot to several hundred dollars’ worth of speed or heroin. Unbeknownst to the dealers, the drugs went straight into an evidence locker. But unbeknownst to the police, not all the drugs Wozencraft and her partner bought were turned over. While still a rookie cop, she became addicted to drugs.

In the early pages of Rush, Wozencraft describes through her characters the harrowing nature of buying, and for the first time using, hard drugs:

I sat next to [my partner] Jim, on a beaten green couch in a dumpy one-bedroom apartment… . Across from us sat Willy Red, dealer in stolen merchandise and drugs… . He was huge and coffee-skinned, with pale red hair shaved close along his scalp. As he spoke, he pulled a nickel-plated .38 from a stack of newspapers on the floor next to his Stratolounger… .

Now you be showing me you ain’t the man,” he said, flopping his hand back and forth, shaking the gun first at Jim, then at me.

Jim reached slowly toward his ankle. Willy Red tightened his grip on the pistol… .

Easy, dude, just my works,” Jim said, and pulled a syringe from his sock… . He took out his pocketknife and scooped a small amount of powder from the packet on the table, delicately tapping it into the spoon Willy had provided… . While he was cooking the dope, I removed my belt and draped it over his thigh… . Jim put the needle in smoothly, expertly, and left the syringe resting on his arm while he loosened the belt from his biceps… .

Oh, yeah,” Willy Red said. “Sweet heaven, here we come… . What about you, sister, you wanna taste? Huh?”

No, man,” Jim mumbled, head nodding gently, eyes half closed. “She don’t fix. The lady don’t fix.”

Oh, man,” Willy Red moaned … “I think she fix or she don’t walk out of here… . I be talking bullets in about a half a minute if she don’t wanna get down. Like I said, I don’t be knowing you… .”

I picked up the syringe … and copied what I’d seen Jim do to prepare the shot. I was shaking, trying to control my hands and not let Willy Red see just how scared I really was … I didn’t know how I was going to get that needle through my skin and into my vein, and I

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