Methods of executionIn 2021, the United States was ranked 18th worldwide by total number of death sentences imposed, situated directly behind Sierra Leone and Palestine. In that same year, the United States was 9th in the world for number of executions carried out. In the U.S. throughout the last three decades, the yearly number of prisoners executed has spanned anywhere from 14 to 98, with 17 in 2020.
Lethal injections have been the most common method in the the country. As of 2022, 1,363 people have been executed by lethal injection in the United States since 1976, when the death penalty was reinstated. However, some states have experienced shortages of necessary drugs which has led to postponed, canceled, or even botched executions, resulting in a number of states reintroducing other methods of execution. In the occurrence that administering lethal injections is not possible, some U.S. states have allowed the use of alternative methods of execution, such as electrocution, hanging, gas chamber, and firing squad. On a federal level, no method of execution has ever been found unconstitutional.
Opinions on the death penaltyU.S. Americans are divided on the subject of capital punishment. In 2022, when asked about their moral stance towards the death penalty, 55 percent of survey respondents from the United States considered the method of punishment to be morally acceptable, whereas 38 percent believed it to be morally wrong. The share of Americans in favor of the death penalty for convicted murderers was 54 percent in 2021, following a slow decline from 1991, which saw 76 percent in favor. Among those opposed, 40 percent said that they believe it is wrong to take a life, whereas 17 percent oppose the death penalty because the prisoners may be wrongly convicted. Another 17 percent believe that punishment of this sort should be left up to God.
Capital punishment in the United States is not just debated within the country, but also has many critics around the world. Human rights organizations as well as politicians in the U.S. have been actively working to outlaw capital punishment across the country. It appears these efforts have seen some success, as there continue to be more countries abolishing the death penalty. As of 2022, 110 countries and territories had abolished capital punishment, which is up from 66 in 1997. The European Union has also been openly opposed to the death penalty, and has even taken measures to reduce executions in the U.S. by banning the exportation of drugs used in lethal injections.