Any day now, with Governor Ralph Northam’s signature, Virginia will eliminate the death penalty.
The news is cause for celebration. Since 1976, Virginia has executed more people than any other state except Texas. Now, Virginia joins a growing wave of states that have rejected this punishment and chosen to make our criminal justice system more humane, equitable and fair.
But the movement to end capital punishment also has a major flaw. It pushes for another form of in-prison death: life without the possibility of parole. Commonly referred to as LWOP, this sentence is frequently touted as a humane alternative to the death penalty. But LWOP is also deeply problematic and riddled with many of the exact same problems as the death penalty.
In the end, sentenced people are still condemned to die in prison, but LWOP sentences receive far less scrutiny by our justice system than death sentences.