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Dying inmate: Dying Iowa inmate, given life for murder, paroled to treat cancer

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A dying inmate in Iowa’s jail system will be granted parole. The inmate, dying of terminal cancer, will be freed and transported into Hospice care after being incarcerated at the age of 15 for murder, reports the Des Moines Register on Tuesday.

The dying inmate is 33-year-old Kristina Fetters, who in 1995 was convicted of beating and stabbing her great-aunt Arlene Klehm.

Fred Scaletta, a spokesman for the Iowa Department of Corrections, said the parole board’s decision was largely based on Fetters' cancer-stricken condition. Under conditions of her release, Fetters is to remain at the Hospice facility. If her condition improves in any way, which is not expected, she could be remanded back to prison.

“The parole board always looks at public safety. Considering her medical condition, she is not really a threat to public safety,” Scaletta said, adding that Fetters is to have “intense supervision, including regular contact from a parole officer.”

According to Reuters, Fetters is the “first Iowa inmate serving a life term without possibility of parole to have her sentence altered following a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year making life without parole unconstitutional for juveniles.”

Bryan Stevenson, executive director of Equal Justice Initiative, said their nonprofit legal defense organization had challenged the constitutionality of Fetters' sentence, not because of her cancer, but due to the fact she was a juvenile when convicted to a life sentence.

"We are really delighted that she is being released," Stevenson said.

Fetters’ family spearheaded the plea to the Iowa parole board, saying that Kristina would receive better health care outside of the jail, which would also be a substantial savings to the Mitchellville Women's Correctional Facility, where Fetters has been incarcerated for 18 years.

“This has been a 19 year old tragedy for my family,” Fetters’ aunt, Nancy Olson, said. “This will bring closure for my family. This will help us all cope a little bit better with the situation.”

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