Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has signed historic legislation abolishing the death penalty in Virginia.
Northam scheduled a tour Wednesday of the death chamber at the Greensville Correction Center and signed the landmark legislation outside the facility.
This makes Virginia the 23rd state and the first in the South to end executions.
The governor plans to replace the death penalty with a life sentence without parole. Virginia currently has only two inmates on death row. Their sentences will be converted to life in prison without parole.
“Over our 400-year history, Virginia has executed more people than any other state,” said Northam. “The death penalty system is fundamentally flawed—it is inequitable, ineffective, and it has no place in this Commonwealth or this country. Virginia has come within days of executing innocent people, and Black defendants have been disproportionately sentenced to death. Abolishing this inhumane practice is the moral thing to do. This is a truly historic day for Virginia, and I am deeply grateful to those who have fought tirelessly and for generations to put an end to capital punishment in our Commonwealth.”
In modern times, Virginia is second only to Texas in executions carried out, with 113 since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Virginia’s new Democratic majority won a major political battle last month when House and Senate approved the legislation to end capital punishment.