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Death penalty in the United States - Statistics & Facts

The death penalty, more formally known as capital punishment, is a highly controversial topic in the United States. Several debates surround the death penalty, with many human rights groups such as Amnesty International stating that it is immoral. However, in the United States, the death penalty is still used by the federal government, the U.S. military, and in 24 out of 50 states (three additional states have a moratorium on executions), with many of these states located in the Midwestern and Southern parts of the country. The United States is the only Western country, among 53 countries worldwide, that still allows the death penalty. Additionally, it is one of four developed countries worldwide that still use the death penalty, along with Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan. Michigan was the first state to put an end to the death penalty in 1846, with Colorado being the most recent in 2020.

Life on death row

In 2019, California had the highest number of prisoners under sentence of death; that year, there were 724 people on death row in the state. However, California suspended the death penalty in that same year, citing high costs, racial disparities and wrongful convictions as the main reasons for the suspension.

Texas executed three people in 2020, the highest of any state (although the federal government executed 10 people in that year), and has had the highest number of executions since 1976, totaling 569.

On a national scale, the number of prisoners under executed per year has fluctuated since 1990, with 22 executions taking place in 2019. Furthermore, the average length of time between sentencing and execution for inmates on death row has more than doubled since 1990.

Opinions on the death penalty

The share of Americans in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder has decreased slightly since 1991, while the number of those who are not in support has been increasing. There are several arguments against the death penalty, which include the high cost of executiion and the possibility of executing someone who has been wrongfully convicted. However, 54 percent of Americans believe that the death penalty is morally acceptable. The primary reason for keeping the death penalty is deterrence, meaning that people are less likely to commit heinous crimes they had initially planned due to fear of being executed. However, this is not necessarily the case, since there are other forms of punishment such as life without parole, which could act as just as great a deterrance to committing crimes without the risk of executing an innocent person.

Interesting statistics

In the following 3 chapters, you will quickly find the 17 most important statistics relating to "Death penalty in the United States".


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