There will be no Christmas with her family for former Florida inmate Tanya Yelvington. She spent 16 years in prison for a fatal drunk-driving crash. During that time, her husband and mother died and she endured breast cancer and a botched double mastectomy that became necessary when prison officials ignored her complaints about a lump in her breast, reports the Miami Herald. Her sister, Teresa Telez, had been her lifeline on the outside, battling the prison to get her medical tests and treatment. Yelvington, 55, asked to spent Christmas with Telez but the Florida Commission on Offender Review rejected her request. It didn't give a reason. In Florida, men and women released early from prison answer to the panel, whose decisions are sometimes criticized as arbitrary and counterproductive.
Yelvington's record shows that, since leaving Lowell Correctional Institution, she has complied with terms of her release, including rules that she never again drive a car, not drink alcohol, not stay out past 10 p.m. and not leave Volusia County without permission. An earlier request to visit family at Thanksgiving was approved, and the overnight stay went off without a hitch. As for Christmas, the commission said no, delivering the news this week after plans had been made for extended family to fly in from all over. The woman whose husband Yelvington was convicted of killing approved of the Christmas visit. “Let me see if I got this right. The state cuts off this woman's breasts. Botches the job. The victim's family says it's fine for her to go home at Christmas — and it actually would decrease her likelihood of recidivism — and the state says no? This is a powerful example of how broken, cruel and pointless this system has become,” said Allison DeFoor, an Episcopal priest and attorney who is a former judge, Monroe County sheriff and vice chairman of the state Republican Party.