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Virginia is poised to become the 23rd U.S. state—and first state in the South—to ban the death penalty after lawmakers on Monday approved legislation prohibiting the practice.

"We're dismantling the remnants of Jim Crow here in the New South. Abolishing the death penalty is another step on that journey," tweeted Democratic Del. Jay Jones, who's running for state attorney general.

Both chambers of the General Assembly passed earlier versions already this month. On Monday, the Senate passed the House bill in a 22-16 vote; the House then voted 57-43 on the measure to ban capital punishment. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has indicated his support for the measure.


As Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)—a former governor of Virginia and a co-sponsor of bicameral legislation to end the federal death penalty—wrote in a Friday op-ed at the Washington Post, "Virginia is the death penalty capital of the United States."

Beginning with the first execution under a colonial government in 1608, we have executed 1,390 people, more than any other state. Following the Supreme Court's decision restoring the death penalty in 1976, Virginia has executed more people than any state except Texas. And the painful history exposes the fundamental racism of capital punishment.

Kaine noted as an example that "even after the Civil War, when crimes such as rape were technically capital offenses for everyone, the ultimate punishment was used only against Black people. Fifty-six people were executed for rape or attempted rape in Virginia between 1908 and 1965—all were Black."

"Thankfully," Kaine wrote, "the repeal of the death penalty by its leading practitioner gives hope that work for justice is not in vain. Virginia's progress shows that it is possible for all."

Northam has previously indicated his backing of legislation to ban the death penalty, saying in a statement earlier this month that capital punishment is "fundamentally inequitable. It is inhumane. It is ineffective."

The governor further confirmed his support on Monday with a joint statement also signed by House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax) and Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-Fairfax) and released after both chambers passed the legislation.

"Thanks to the vote of lawmakers in both chambers, Virginia will join 22 other states that have ended use of the death penalty," the three Democrats said. "This is an important step forward in ensuring that our criminal justice system is fair and equitable to all."

Once the bill becomes law, the two men with still lingering death sentences, Anthony Juniper and Thomas Porter, will face life in prison without parole.

This article first appeared on Common Dreams. You can read it here.

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These 11 powerful photos offer a glimpse of life on death row.

It's been 10 years since California's last execution. But death row continues to grow.

What began in 1852 as 20 acres of seaside land purchased for $10,000 is now known as San Quentin State Prison.

Today, the prison covers 432 acres, and it houses over 4,000 men, including hundreds of men who are on death row.

Visitors arrive at San Quentin State Prison in 2015. All photos by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.


At San Quentin, nearly 700 men live on death row.

It's the only correctional facility in California for condemned men. But there's a problem: There hasn't been an execution at San Quentin since 2006. That means that those hundreds of men are waiting (and waiting, and waiting) for their death sentences to be carried out — and some have been waiting for more than 10 years.

Why the wait? Legal challenges surrounding the cocktail of drugs used during lethal injections have put executions on hold. In November 2016, California voters will decide whether to eliminate the death penalty entirely or, at the very least, expedite the process. But until then, these men's futures hang in flux.

Regardless of where you stand on capital punishment, the current prison system is inarguably flawed.

While prison should remain a punishment, especially for the most dangerous offenders, keeping a future in the balance for literally decades at a time is borderline inhumane. The condemned inmates live in single cells, with limited access to fresh air or mental enrichment.

These photos reveal just what it looks like to spend your days trapped in an outdated facility, within a broken system, where your only options are to wait and wonder.

1.  Little has changed in San Quentin's East Block — where condemned inmates are held — since it was built in 1930.

2. Nothing is automated. Each cell is opened and closed by hand.

3. Unlike inmates in the general population, where men are kept two to a cell and have access to enrichment programs, inmates on death row spend most of their days alone.

4. If you think it's lonely and isolating, you're right.

4.  In their single cells, some write or draw.

5. Others study or read to pass the time.

6. Outside time is limited to four days a week, when inmates get access to an exercise yard.

7. There, they can workout.

8. Or pace.

9. Or just think.

10. There's always plenty of time for that.

11. After all, waiting is what they're on death row to do. The question is — for how long?

A Mickey Mouse clock marks the time, along with a little graffiti from someone with a cruel and unusual sense of humor.

And this isn't just California's problem — it's a problem everywhere.

Between sentencing and execution, inmates on death row can wait an average of 190 months. That's up from 74 months in 1984.

It's clear our corrections system wasn't built for this — unduly cruel sentences of indeterminate length in prisons more than a century old. Surely there's a way to get justice for victims and punish perpetrators without sacrificing our own humanity.

If you had just one day left on Earth, what would your last meal be?

Henry Hargreaves photographed what death row prisoners in America requested as their last meal in his "No Seconds" series, saying that his main goal was "to have the viewer identify with the prisoner though their meal request. I wanted the viewer to think of them as a person for a moment instead of them being anonymous."


It's interesting that Henry's photography project doesn't make a judgment of the prisoner's crime, but rather humanizes the individual with a subtle glimpse of the prisoner's character and personality.