Saira Florez -- #30579-004

16 Years -- Cocaine Conspiracy

Saira Florez, prisoner of the drug war
Living in the United States is the dream of thousands of people around the world; it was my dream too. Fifteen years ago I came here with a firm determination to make dreams come true and to accomplish my goals. Well, it was fine for awhile. I can say that I was happy; I had a pretty home, a husband and two children, Danny, now 14 and Melanie, 8. It was fine until one day about seven years ago when I trusted an individual and loaned him $4,000. That misplaced trust changed and destroyed our family's life forever.

We knew little about drug laws, and nothing about conspiracy crime. We also didn't know how easy it is to be sent to prison in this country on conspiracy charges. We learned the hard way that the government pays informants to fabricate cases, to commit perjury, to 'cooperate' and negotiate for reduced sentences in order to put first-time offenders in prison for very long terms. One paid informant and career criminal was paid $80,000 by the DEA to fabricate a case against my husband and me.

We believed in the US legal system, and we exercised our constitutional Sixth Amendment right to go to trial. Yes! The jury found us guilty, and I was sentenced to sixteen years of incarceration and my husband to thirteen years with no parole. In seconds my children became homeless and suffered the consequences of our naivete and poor judgement.

Saira Florez with her children
I did not want to separate them from me and thanks to God I was able to place them in the Children's Baptist Home, a foster-care facility here in Tallahassee, Florida. I saw them very often and was doing my best to nurture the mother-child bond and avoid more severe psychological damage, but my son could not make it. One day the foster home called to say they could not take care of him anymore. I was going crazy because I did not want to separate him from his sister and me. I wanted to keep the three of us together, but I did not have a choice and I had to send him to Miami to a friend's house. He left a year ago while my daughter still remains at the foster home here in Tallahassee.

Since my arrest, my overweight son has been suffering with depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. He cannot concentrate during school and adjusts poorly at home. This situation is really painful for me, but there is so little that I can do from prison. I keep my faith and continue fighting because I know they need me very much.

I urge everyone to join the fight to reform the judiciary system so that every citizen could have a fair trial - not one based on the power of prosecutors and paid informants as in my case. In a democratic government every citizen (as the Sixth Amendment of our Constitution guarantees) should be able to have a fair trial regardless of lack of knowledge, language, power and money and not to be found guilty because of lies.