Wisconsin governor pardons La Crosse mother for selling drugs

Ebony Hyter sold drugs at 25 to care for her family; now she's pursuing her master's degree while focusing on racial and health justice

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Gov. Tony Evers has pardoned more people in his first three years in office than any other Wisconsin governor. Ebony Hyter is one of those 391 pardons.

She has come a long way since selling drugs to get money to care for her family. Now she wants to be an advocate for families in the community facing racial discrimination and poverty. Taking care of a family is every parent’s responsibility.

“(In) 2006, I had a son,” Hyter said.

A responsibility that didn’t come easy for Hyter.

“Life was complicated,” Hyter said.

At 25 years old, opportunities and money were few and far between.

“Any person that has experienced poverty, and oppression, and discrimination, selling drugs is a quick way to deal with the faces of HR that are often not as friendly as we’d like,” Hyter said.

Hyter knew she couldn’t sustain this way of life.

“Yeah, not the right decision,” said Hyter, who served three years of probation.

Financial troubles are not unique to Hyter’s life. A La Crosse County ALICE report from 2018 shows 11 percent of La Crosse County residents live in poverty.

Minority populations suffer the most. Last year, the Center on Budget and Policy Properties showed that Black and Latino adults were more than twice as likely as white adults to report that their household did not get enough to eat.

Since her conviction, Hyter turned her life around. She pursued higher education and is working on her master’s degree.

“There can be other alternatives,” Hyter said.

Evers pardoned Hyter. A pardon is an official act of forgiveness that restores rights lost when someone is convicted of a felony, including the right to serve on a jury hold public office, and hold certain professional licenses.

“I was shocked, but I was extremely grateful,” Hyter said.

Hyter has shown how a person’s past doesn’t define their character.

“Be a representation of children who are going through similar things as me,” Hyter said.

She always cared for her family, she just had to find a better way to fulfill that responsibility. Hyter said she hopes more people in the community will recognize the history of inequity in the country so we don’t repeat the same mistakes surrounding racial justice. She said communities must work to solve the poverty problem.

Hyter still lives in La Crosse. The court and the district attorney’s office supported her pardon.

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