I am Lazara Ordaz, a daughter, mother and sister. A 62-year-old Cuban native. In 1998, my life was reduced to an eight-digit ID number and count time. I was sentenced in November 2000 to 35 years + five years of probation.
As of today, I have served 22 1/2 years. My release day is Aug. 6, 2029. I pray I am blessed enough to still be alive to be free to reunite with my family.
I do not ask for pity. I take and have taken full responsibility for my crime. I fully understand that justice must be served to the victims, and those who committed crimes have a debt to pay.
But with all due respect, is a system that created victims that need deliverance from justice really working?
I am being held at FCI Marianna — a federal prison camp with the lowest level of security. In this prison system there is significant risk to experience severe illness, even death, and even more so due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
I was previously at FCI Coleman, another prison camp, where I contracted Legionnaires disease, which causes severe respiratory illness. Approximately 12 inmates were hospitalized, and many more became sick due to a corroded pipe that carried water to the units where we lived.
Once you contract Legionnaires, you are never completely rid of it. This outbreak was from December 2019 to April 2020. Then, in June 2020, the Covid-19 outbreak started. Out of 209 women that were in the camp, 169 got Covid-19. Some were very sick. We lost two prison sisters. My concern for my health and lack of medical care available led me to apply for compassionate release/reduction of sentence. All my motions were denied by the judge and prosecutor, both who were new to my case.
The original judge and prosecutor on my case have retired and left the government. The new judge and prosecutor were judging me on crimes I committed 25 or 26 years ago. The judge didn’t ask for my disciplinary record or look at all I have accomplished in the 22 1/2 years of being incarcerated. I have worked with the UNICOR correctional program for 16 years. Education has always been a priority for me.
While in prison I have mastered the trade of blue printing. I was advanced to the highest position available as a teacher of the skill for over 16 years in UNICOR, and I have completed a material coordinator apprenticeship, graduated from a two-year business program offered by Marist College and successfully completed over 70 classes and programs.
I also have graduated from a paralegal course offered by Blackstone University. I have had clear conduct for over 25 years. I am confused and would like to know when the BOP/federal government consider you rehabilitated ? It seems the judicial system does not really believe that being imprisoned can change you!!! If that is the case, what is the true purpose of prison?
All I ask at this point is a full and fair hearing — an investigation into my exemplary prison record that is as complete and thorough as the investigation and analysis into my prior life. Every negative aspect of my past — even the inaccurate stuff — is being used against me to deny me relief, and none of the positive aspects of my rehabilitation and reinvention of myself is even being considered. How is that fair? How is that just? Isn’t rehabilitation the goal of prison?
I am speaking from my heart. There is no amount of money that can make up for the losses I have suffered. I used to say time is money, but now I know, after 22 1/2 years of being incarcerated, freedom and family are the most important things in life.
I believe if you don’t learn or change your mindset in five to 10 years, you will never change. I have accomplished so much in prison. I have suffered so much loss as well. I lost my mother, grandmother, brothers, and nephew. I was not allowed to attend their funerals. I lost my mother in 2006, and I had not seen her since 1998.
Losing my mother was the hardest thing I have had to endure. I have missed out on my daughter’s high school graduation, her sweet 16, her prom and many other milestones in her life. I lost one of my brothers while he was in prison. I pray I don’t suffer the same fate.
I pray this system changes and sees that we deserve a second chance. My mindset changed many years ago. I have a tremendous amount of family and friends waiting to support me upon my release. I have a couple of great job opportunities lined up. I want to go to my mother’s grave and pay my respects before I die, too.
I understand I made a mistake 25 years ago. I never denied that, but I have paid my debt. I am ready to start a new life. I know I can and will be a productive citizen. My request for this country is to fight to change this broken prison system.
Clearly the “War on Drugs” has not been a success. I see new people still coming into prison for drug offenses similar to and far “worse” than mine almost every day. It is time to change the narrative and the strategy.