Hello, my name is Norma Marie Estrada-Lopez.
I have been incarcerated since 1994. I am writing today in regards to a transfer opportunity I have been offered by NCDS. To my understanding, 601 letters went out to women and men incarcerated in the Nebraska prison systems. The content of this letter is as follows:
“A review of the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services (NCDS) electronic database indicates that Nebraska is not your ‘home’ state. This may mean you were born in another state, that you lived outside of Nebraska prior to your incarceration, or that you were living in another state when you were arrested in Nebraska.
“We recognize that completing all or part of your sentence in your ‘home’ state would allow you to be closer to your family and friends. Having strong, supportive relationships is important both during and after your incarceration. So, we would like to offer you the opportunity to be considered for an interstate transfer to your ‘home’ state at no cost to you.
“If you are interested in pursuing this opportunity, you may use interoffice mail to send an Inmate Interview Request form to NDCS Chief of Operations/Interstate Transfer. In your request, tell me your ‘home’ state and that you are willing to start the interstate transfer process. This request has to be approved by NDCS and your ‘home’ state.
“This could be an excellent opportunity for you and I encourage you to take advantage of it. Please send your request by December 31, 20919.”
My belief is that these letters were sent to all of the inmates to make bed space in the overcrowded prisons. However, it is going to cost the Nebraska taxpayers approximately $100 a day to house just one inmate in another facility and approximately $36,000 a year. Now imagine the estimated cost to house all 601 inmates or simply just 300 if those inmates in fact went to their home state facilities – that estimated cost would be $10,800,000 a year and this estimation is based on what it takes to house an inmate here in Nebraska (this cost may vary depending on the state).
My question is, would it make better sense to commute my life sentence, send me to details, and give me a chance to prove I am not a threat to society? My institutional record alone proves that I am not a threat to staff or general population inmates here. If I was given a chance this would allow me to work my way out to parole where I would have to pay monthly fees and maintain a job as well as be a productive member of society. When was the last time a woman’s life sentence was commuted? I do understand that men’s prisons have a higher rate of overcrowding and tend to get all the publicity; however, the women’s prison is overcrowded as well. We are being placed in rooms where we are not receiving our allotted amount of space. The population needs to be reduced here at NCCW as well. Allow some of us women who have served 25 years or more to have a chance at life again. I have been incarcerated long enough to know better than to go back to the things I was entertaining myself with 25 years ago. The legislature continues to pass bills that state ‘release non-violent offenders’ – this is understandable but please define a non-violent offender and a violent offender for me. My definition of a violent offender is a violent individual who continuously commits violent acts, not a person like me who was found guilty of committing one violent act 25 years ago. Non-violent offenders have the ability to be a violent offender as I do. However, the drug users/dealers continue to be released on parole and repeatedly violate parole, commit new crimes time and time again because they are not receiving enough time to allow the drugs to get out of their systems and let them get used to living without it. I believe the drug offenders would benefit from longer sentences and so would society but they are the ones given a second chance at parole again and again. Give me and some other long timers such as Justeen Williams-Rathjen, LoRay Smith, Velma Batiste a chance at parole or a commutation and I guarantee we would successfully complete parole. In closing, I would like to thank you for your time and support in this matter.