Inmates sitting on death row in the state of Virginia will soon be cut off from all in-person contact with their loved ones, reports the Washington Post.
Beginning on September 1, the state will become the second in the nation to mandate that all contact with death row inmates be performed through video conferencing. The policy isn't meant to restrict the rights of the prisoners; on the contrary, the objective is to reduce strain on staff, as well as to potentially expand the opportunity for inmates to connect with their families.
Of the 35 states that permit the death penalty, Kansas is the only other one to require that all contact with inmates be via video conferencing systems. Twelve other states allow visits which include physical contact, while 21 keep visitors and inmates separated by a glass wall. In Ohio, a glass partition divides visitor and inmate, but a small slot allows the two to hold hands.
Department of Corrections officials maintain that the video conferencing system will improve security and efficiency, but not everyone is pleased.
"The fact that these people are on death row and are very likely going to lose their life at some point, to then punish them by taking away the few positive things in their life is just terrible policy and very inhumane," Claudia Whitman, director of the National Death Row Assistance Network for Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants, told the Post.
More than two dozen inmates are currently on death row in Virginia, including John Allen Muhammed, the infamous "D.C. Sniper."