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Va. OKs bill to let violent crime victims meet with death row inmates

April 23, 2010

Even in states that offer victim-offender meetings, “there are
a thousand bureaucratic road blocks put in the way,” said Pat
Nolan, vice president of Prison Fellowship, a national prison

“The system has a paternalistic view that they know better than
the victim, they’re trying to protect the victim,” he said. “In
most cases, the victims have great difficulty getting in to see the

And while many states allow the meetings only for nonviolent
offenses, more are warming to the idea of letting victims of
violent crimes visit with inmates, even on death row, said Lisa
Rea, a California restorative justice consultant and founder of The
Justice and Reconciliation Project.

One reason, she said: More and more victims are demanding the

….Currently, victims must request a meeting in writing, and requests
are approved or rejected based on the type of crime committed, the
inmate’s behavior and security level, mental health issues and the
reason for the visit. On average, the department receives 10 to 15 such
requests a year, and half are approved.

But meetings with condemned inmates are forbidden.

That came as a shock to Whoberry when she was denied after her
daughter’s killer, Paul Warner Powell, agreed to meet with her. Powell
attempted to rape her 16-year-old daughter, Stacie Reed, and then
stabbed her when she fought him off in 1999. He waited for her
14-year-old sister to come home and then raped and stabbed her, but she

“I was under the impression I had rights,” she said. “But I keep
finding out I don’t. The offender has more rights than we do.”

Powell’s attorney, Jonathan Sheldon, tried to arrange a meeting, but
also was denied. In the end — a day before Powell
died by electrocution March 18 — Sheldon arranged to have Whoberry
and her family come to his office and talk to Powell for more than two
hours over the phone.

For Whoberry, “it brought that monster into being a human being,” she

They talked about his newfound faith, his life in prison and how he
dealt with what he had done. The family asked questions, and Whoberry
said she left with a feeling of peace that had avoided her in the 11
years since her daughter Stacie’s murder.

“As a victim and survivor there’s things you want to say to them that
only you can say to them, and they need to hear it,” Whoberry said.
“They need to hear it from you.” The more serious or violent the crime,
the more the victims benefit from meeting with the offender, Nolan
said. Often, criminals take plea bargains. Even if they go to trial,
victims often never really get their questions answered.

Read the full article.


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