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Va. To End Face-to-Face Visits For Death Row Inmates

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By Jonathan Wilson

Starting on September 1st, Virginia will become only the second state in the nation to require all death row visits to be done via video conference.

Some say the changes will punish innocent family members.

The Department of Corrections in Kansas instituted a video-conference-only policy for its death row inmates for security reasons 7 years ago.

Kansas DOC spokesman Bill Miskell says before the change, escorting inmates from segregated units to the area where visitation took place was a big concern.

"[The video-conferencing] does allow staff to focus on other security related issues," says Miskell.

The technology will cost more than a half-million dollars, and in Virginia, like Kansas the policy will apply to all inmates held in segregation units for breaking prison rules.

Kent Willis, with the ACLU of Virginia, calls the policy "mean-spirited" and unnecessary.

"This means a great deal to the families of the individuals. No matter how well you do it, video conferencing is still a face on a screen, a little more like going to the movies," says Willis.

The state banned physical contact during visits for death row inmates three years ago. There are currently 11 inmates awaiting the death penalty in Virginia.

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