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I co-founded the Prison Policy Initiative to put the problem of mass incarceration — and the perverse incentives that fuel it — on the national agenda. Over the last 16 years, our campaigns have protected our democracy from the prison system and protected the poorest families in this country from the predatory prison telephone industry. Our reports untangle the statistics and recruit new allies.

But now, more than ever, we need your help to put data & compassion into the conversation. Any gift you can make today will be matched by other donors and go twice as far.

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—Peter Wagner, Executive DirectorDonate

Section I: Crime & Punishment in the U.S.

Death Penalty

  • Number of prisoners on death row, December 31, 2001176: 3,581
  • Number of U.S. states with the death penalty177: 38
  • Number of states that carried out an execution in 2001178: 15
  • Number of executions in 2001179: 66
  • Median time, in years, a death row prisoner has been awaiting execution180: 7.4
  • Average time, in years, between imposition of sentence and execution181: 11.8
  • Number of states where electrocution is among the methods used for execution182: 9
  • Number of states where lethal gas is among the methods used for execution183: 4
  • Number of states where hanging is among the methods used for execution184: 3
  • Number of states where a firing squad is among the methods used for execution185: 3
  • Number of states where lethal injection is among the methods used for execution186: 36
  • Number of people executed by civil authorities from 1930 to 2000187: 4,608
  • Number of people executed since 1977, when the Supreme Court upheld revised capital punishment laws188: 749

Death row demographics

  • Percent of death row that is male189: 98.6
  • Percent of death row that does not have a high school diploma or GED190: 51.7
  • Percent of U.S. adults that have a high school diploma or GED191: 84.1

Death row vs. U.S. population by race

  • Percent of death row that is African-American192: 42.9%
  • Percent of U.S. that is African-American193: 12.8%
  • Percent of death row that is White194: 55.0%
  • Percent of U.S. that is White195: 82.2%
  • Percent of death row that is Hispanic196: 11.2%
  • Percent of U.S. that is Hispanic197: 11.8%
  • Percent of death row that is Native American198: 0.8%
  • Percent of U.S. that is Native American199: 0.9%
  • Percent of death row that is Asian200: 0.9%
  • Percent of U.S. that is Asian201: 4.1%

Innocence and the death penalty

  • Since 1973, number of people who have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence202: 103
  • Number of persons executed in Florida since 1977203: 51
  • Number of persons released from Florida death row with evidence of innocence, since 1973204: 22
  • Number of persons on death row in Illinois on December 31, 2001205: 158
  • Number of persons executed in Illinois since 1977206: 12
  • Number of persons released from Illinois death row with evidence of innocence, since 1973207: 13
  • Number of death row prisoners freed by Illinois Governor Ryan on January 10, 2003208: 4
  • Percent of Illinois death row prisoners whose death sentences were commuted to life or shorter sentences on January 11, 2003 by Governor Ryan after he reviewed each case and found "questions about the fairness of the death penalty system as a whole" 209: 100%

Juveniles and the death penalty

  • Number of countries that have abolished the death penalty for offenses committed while under 18 years of age210: 70
  • Number of countries where the execution of minors is prohibited by treaty or legislation211: 112
  • Number of countries that have executed a juvenile offender, 1970-1985212: 9
  • Number of death sentences imposed on juvenile offenders in the United States since 1976213: 224
  • Number of death sentences carried out on juvenile offenders in the United States since 1976214: 21
  • Number of death sentences carried out on juvenile offenders since 1976 that were in Texas215: 13
  • Number of First World countries other than the U.S. who execute juvenile offenders216: 0
  • Number of U.S. states that do not specify a minimum age for which the death penalty could be imposed217: 7
  • Number of states that allow the death penalty against defendants as young as 17218: 17
  • Number of states that allow the death penalty against defendants as young as 16219: 10
  • Youngest age in Arkansas, Utah and Virginia where a defendant could face the death penalty220: 14

Mental retardation & the death penalty

  • Number of people with mental retardation executed since 1977221: 35
  • Estimate, number of people with mental retardation on death row, 2001222: 200-300
  • Number of death penalty states that barred the execution of the mentally retarded in 1989223: 2
  • Number of death penalty states that barred the execution of the mentally retarded in May, 2002224: 18
  • Year the Supreme Court ruled that execution of the mentally retarded violated the 8th Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment225: 2002
  • Year police convinced Earl Washington to confess to murder and rape226: 1983
  • Year those statements sent Earl Washington to death row227: 1984
  • IQ Score for Earl Washington228: 69
  • Year DNA evidence proved Washington was innocent and he received an absolute pardon229: 2000

Dollars & death

  • Estimated cost of a death penalty trial, in dollars230: $2 million
  • Number of times a capital trial is more expensive than a non-capital trial, in California231: 6
  • Amount that California could save per year by abolishing capital punishment232: $90 million
  • Cost in New Jersey in 1991 to impose the death penalty233: $16 million
  • Number of police laid off in New Jersey in 1992 due to lack of funds to pay them234: 500
  • Ratio of spending in Jasper County, Mississippi on one capital trial in 1995 to its spending on libraries235: 5 to 1

This page is an excerpt from The Prison Index: Taking the Pulse of the Crime Control Industry (April 2003) by Peter Wagner, published by the Western Prison Project and the Prison Policy Initiative.

Footnotes

176 As of December 31, 2001, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 1.

177 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 2.

178 Not counting the federal government. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 1.

179 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 1

180 Calculation based on Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 12.

181 This figure is somewhat dated as it averages all executions from 1977 to 2000. In 1996, Congress based the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (ATEDPA) which reduced prisoners ability to appeal their sentences. Some, but not all of ATEDPA is retroactive, meaning that prisoners recently sentenced to death will be executed much quicker. Calculation based on Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 12.

182 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 5.

183 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 5.

184 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 5.

185 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 5.

186 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 5.

187 Not counting military executions and extrajudicial lynching. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 10.

188 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 10.

189 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 8.

190 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 8.

191 Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2001, The National Data Book, Table 215.

192 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 8.

193 Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2001, The National Data Book, Table 10.

194 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 8.

195 Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2001, The National Data Book, Table 10.

196 Bureau of Justice Statistics,Capital Punishment 2001,p. 8.

197 Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2001, The National Data Book, Table 10.

198 28 Native Americans at year end on death row divided by 3,581 on death row. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 8.

199 Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2001, The National Data Book, Table 10.

200 33 Native Americans at year end on death row divided by 3,581 on death row. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 8.

201 Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2001, The National Data Book, Table 10.

202 Death Penalty Information Center, Innocence and the Death Penalty (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innoc.html, viewed Jan 26, 2002.) Page is as of release of Rudolph Horton, January 2003.

203 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, Table 10,

204 Death Penalty Information Center, Innocence and the Death Penalty (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innoc.html, viewed Dec 29, 2002.)

205 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001 Table 5.

206 Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001 Table 10.

207 Death Penalty Information Center, Innocence and the Death Penalty (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/innoc.html, viewed Dec 29, 2002.)

208 New York Times, January 12, 2003.

209 New York Times, January 12, 2003.

210 Human Rights Watch, A World Leader in Executing Juveniles, March 1995, P3 http://www.Human Rights Watch .org/reports/1995/Us.htm citing United Nations, Member States and Their Positions on the Death Penalty for Crimes Committed by Persons Below 18 Years of Age(New York: United Nations, 1994).

211 Human Rights Watch, A World Leader in Executing Juveniles, March 1995, P3 http://www.Human Rights Watch .org/reports/1995/Us.htm citing United Nations, Member States and Their Positions on the Death Penalty for Crimes Committed by Persons Below 18 Years of Age New York: United Nations, 1994).

212 Human Rights Watch, A World Leader in Executing Juveniles, March 1995, P3 http://www.Human Rights Watch .org/reports/1995/Us.htm citing United Nations, Member States and Their Positions on the Death Penalty for Crimes Committed by Persons Below 18 Years of Age (New York: United Nations, 1994).

213 “Malvo likely won’t be part of campaign to end juvenile death penalty”Cnn.com Jan 7, 2003

214 “Malvo likely won’t be part of campaign to end juvenile death penalty”Cnn.com Jan 7, 2003

215 “Malvo likely won’t be part of campaign to end juvenile death penalty”Cnn.com Jan 7, 2003

216 Based on Human Rights Watch, A World Leader in Executing Juveniles, March 1995, P3 http://www.Human Rights Watch .org/reports/1995/Us.htm citing United Nations, Member States and Their Positions on the Death Penalty for Crimes Committed by Persons Below 18 Years of Age(New York: United Nations, 1994).

217 Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota,. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 5.

218 Calculation based on Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 2001, p. 5.

219 Bureau of Justice Statistics,Capital Punishment 2001, p. 5.

220 Bureau of Justice Statistics,Capital Punishment 2001, p. 5.

221 Human Rights Watch, Beyond Reason: The Death Penalty and Offenders with Mental Retardation, March 2001 Summary P1 http://www.Human Rights Watch .org/reports/2001/ustat/ citing Denis Keyes, William Edwards, and Robert Perske, “People with Mental Retardation and Dying, Legally.”

222 Human Rights Watch, Beyond Reason: The Death Penalty and Offenders with Mental Retardation, March 2001, Summary P1 http://www.Human Rights Watch .org/reports/ 2001/ustat/

223 Death Penalty Information Center, Death Penalty and Mental Retardation.

224 Death Penalty Information Center, Death Penalty and Mental Retardation.

225 Atkins v. Virginia, Death Penalty Information Center, Death Penalty and Mental Retardation, http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/Death Penalty Information Center mr.html.

226 Death Penalty Information Center, Death Penalty and Mental Retardation.

227 Death Penalty Information Center, Death Penalty and Mental Retardation.

228 Death Penalty Information Center, Death Penalty and Mental Retardation.

229 Death Penalty Information Center, Death Penalty and Mental Retardation.

230 Katherine Baicker, The Budgetary Repercussions of Capital Cases, p. 3.

231 Death Penalty Information Center, Millions Misspent: What Politicians Don’t Say About The High Costs of the Death Penalty.

232 Death Penalty Information Center, Millions Misspent: What Politicians Don’t Say About The High Costs of the Death Penalty.

233 Katherine Baicker, The Budgetary Repercussions of Capital Cases, p. 5.

234 Katherine Baicker, The Budgetary Repercussions of Capital Cases, p. 5.

235 Katherine Baicker, The Budgetary Repercussions of Capital Cases, p. 5.

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