Virginia’s Move To End Capital Punishment Has A Major Flaw

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.


I Made A Serious Mistake As Governor Of Maryland. We Need Parole Reform.

It’s never easy to admit you made a mistake. Twenty-five years ago, I made a serious mistake.

At the start of my two terms as governor of Maryland, I announced that I would not grant parole to anyone with a life sentence, even though they were supposed to have a chance to earn it. Governors after me followed suit. I know now that my statement in 1995 that “life means life” was completely wrong.

It meant that people whose sentences promised a chance at parole were denied it for decades, regardless of how thoroughly they worked to redeem themselves and make amends to those they harmed.

I think about the people who, back in 1993, had earned work release and were productively preparing to return to their communities. Every one of them, no matter the personal effort they put in to rehabilitating themselves, was sent back to prison. The change was supposed to be temporary. But because of my statements, it became permanent. They lost everything and had to start over, often ending marriages and forcing some to say permanent goodbyes to children.

It was wrong for them to be imprisoned for decades longer because of me and subsequent governors. Some are still locked up today.


Study: Two-Thirds Of Prisoners Serving Life Sentences Are People Of Color

More than two thirds of the roughly 203,000 prisoners serving life sentences in the United States are people of color, according to a new study citing official corrections data obtained last year from all states and the federal Bureau of Prisons.

The study, released by the Sentencing Project, found that roughly 20 percent of Black male prisoners are serving life sentences. About 11 percent of Black women serving prison sentences are also serving life, according to the study.

In states like Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, and Maryland, the study found that over two-thirds of those sentenced to life in prison are Black Americans, which account for 46 percent of those serving life sentences nationwide despite only accounting for around 13 percent of the U.S. population.


Illinois Becomes First State to Commit To Eliminating Cash Bail

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a number of sweeping criminal justice and police reforms into law, which includes eliminating cash bail for pretrial detainees.

Under the Pretrial Fairness Act, which was spearheaded by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, a judge can still detain an individual if they’re charged with felonies such as murder or domestic battery.

Those who aren’t deemed a threat to the community won’t be required to obtain cash to be released from jail prior to trial.


‘You Have One Minute Remaining.’ Why I’ll Always Drop Everything to Answer My Brother’s Calls From Prison

A million families live this way: Sending money they can’t afford. Making court dates they don’t have time for. Driving five hours only to be turned away, because the facility is on lockdown or because someone’s dress isn’t long enough.

It’s the way the guard talks to you when you visit, and how you’re herded single file through dingy corridors to pay too much for microwave concessions. It’s watching your loved ones demolish that food and how they’re marched away when the visit ends.

It’s feeling alone, though everyone you know has experienced this.

One in two Americans have lived some version of this story, because half of all U.S. residents and a full two thirds of all Black people have a loved one who has done time. However, it’s not just the family members who are frustrated.

It’s especially hard for people in prison.


Texas Inmates Stuck With Clogged Toilets, Freezing Cells, Advocates Say: ‘So Cold That Their Bodies Are Numb’

As a winter storm sent Texas spiraling into crisis with widespread power outages, a lack of clean, running water has forced freezing inmates to live alongside stagnant urine and feces-filled toilets that can’t be flushed, according to accounts from advocates and inmates.

“It’s horrendous,” 32-year-old Arthur White, who is being held in the Harris County Jail. The freezing air in the jail is “reeking,” another man in the jail, A.D. Wooten, said.