By Nancy Street, PJALS member
Some of you have followed the progress of Yvette Louisell as published in the Handful of Salt over many years. Part 1 appeared in 2005 and Part 2 in 2010. Seventeen year-old Yvette, who is biracial, was a first-year scholarship student at Iowa State University, when she stabbed and killed a middle-aged white man in 1987. The trial carried out by an all-white jury in rural Fort Dodge, Iowa handed down a sentence of Life Without Parole.
While in prison, Yvette completed her B.S. from Iowa State University, published poems and short stories, and received a huge number of certificates of accomplishments. She benefited from resources made available to her to progress in life, and is an inspiration to many. Even the original prosecutor testified on her behalf.
Because she was such an exceptional inmate, she was granted a parole hearing about 6 years ago, but parole was denied. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in Miller vs. Alabama, which was argued by Bryan Stephenson author of Just Mercy and Director of Equal Justice Initiative, that sentencing juveniles to life without parole was cruel and unusual punishment. Governor Terry Bransted of Iowa, then, commuted all juveniles sentenced to Life Without Parole to 60 years.
For the past four years, Yvette’s case wound its way through the courts and on Wednesday, August 10, 2016, Yvette will begin work release and parole after dealing with prison for 28 years. She is now 45 years old, but is so excited to start a new life outside prison walls. Like all of us, she deserves a second chance.