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Our February meeting featured two speakers on criminal justice reform.
Dale Brumfield of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty gave an update on repeal of the death penalty in the 2021 General Assembly session. Virginia has executed more people than any other state–almost 1400–starting in 1608. Dale described the 30-year history of uphill efforts to abolish the death penalty in Virginia, culminating in passage of repeal bills in both bodies of the Virginia legislature. After differences in the language of the two bills are reconciled, Governor Northam is expected to sign the repeal bill in early March. What accounts for victory this year? Dale pointed to unprecedented constituent pressure, resulting from last summer’s Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and to leadership from Gov. Ralph Northam and legislators like Mike Mullin, who carried the House repeal bill. Virginia will be the 23rd state to abolish the death penalty, and the first state of the former Confederacy to do so.