BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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December 11, 2001 202/307-0784


Thirty-seven States and Federal Government Held Almost 3,600 Inmates on Death Row

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Fourteen states executed 85 prisoners—83 men and 2 women—during 2000, which was 13 fewer than in 1999, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported today. The executed prisoners had spent an average of 11 years and 5 months on death row before being put to death, which was about 6 months less than those executed in 1999.

During 2000, Texas executed 40 people, Oklahoma executed 11 inmates, Virginia 8, Florida 6, Missouri 5, Alabama 4, Arizona 3 and Arkansas 2. Delaware, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and California each executed 1 person. As of December 31, 2000, 38 states and the federal government authorized capital punishment.

Those executed during 2000 included 49 whites, of which 6 were white Hispanics; 35 blacks and 1 American Indian. Eighty of the executions were by lethal injection and 5 by electrocution. Twenty-one states authorized lethal injections in 1990, which increased to 36 states by 2000.

From January 1, 1977, through December 31, 2000, there were 683 executions in 31 states. Sixty-five percent of those executions were in five states: Texas (239), Virginia (81), Florida (50), Missouri (46) and Oklahoma (30). The other states that executed offenders during the period were as follows: Louisiana, 26; South Carolina, 25; Alabama, 23; Arkansas, 23; Georgia, 23; Arizona, 22; North Carolina 16; Illinois, 12; Delaware, 11; California, 8; Nevada, 8; Indiana, 7; Utah, 6; Mississippi, 4; Maryland, 3; Nebraska, 3; Pennsylvania, 3; Washington State, 3; Kentucky, 2; Montana, 2; Oregon, 2 and Colorado, Idaho, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wyoming 1 each.

At year-end 2000, 37 states and the federal government held 3,539 men and 54 women on death row. California had the most (586), followed by Texas (450), Florida (371) and Pennsylvania (238). The federal system held 18.

Between 1990 and 2000, the number of offenders under sentence of death increased 52 percent, a period in which prison populations nationwide grew by 79 percent.

The race of those sentenced to death and those removed from death row during 2000 mirrored that of the total death row population at the end of last year:

  Under sentence of death Admissions Removals
    Total 3,593   214   161  
White 55%   57%   57%  
Black 43%   40%   41%  
All other races 2%   3%   2%  

For those under a death sentence as of last December 31 for whom the data were available, all had committed murder and most had a prior criminal background - 64 percent had a prior felony conviction and 8 percent had been convicted of a prior homicide. About 4 in 10 had an existing criminal justice status at the time of their capital offense, including 18 percent who had been on parole, 10 percent on probation and about 11 percent who had charges pending, had been escapees or had committed the capital offense while incarcerated. Approximately 1 in 6 offenders admitted since 1988 had 2 or more death sentences.

Among the 6,588 persons under sentence of death since the Supreme Court reaffirmed the death penalty in 1976, about 10 percent of those eligible for execution have had the sentence carried out. More than a third (35 percent) of those sentenced to death subsequently had the death sentence removed as a consequence of an appeal or commutation or died while incarcerated.

The average term served prior to execution for those executed since 1977 is 121 months; for those executed during 2000, the elapsed time from sentence to execution was 137 months. Just over 1 percent of those awaiting execution at the end of 2000 had been under a death sentence for more than 20 years.

Among the 683 executed since 1977, 518 were by lethal injection, 149 by electrocution, 11 by lethal gas, 3 by hanging (two in Washington State and one in Delaware) and 2 by firing squad (both in Utah).

The BJS bulletin, "Capital Punishment 2000" (NCJ-190598) was written by BJS statistician Tracy L. Snell.

After the release date these materials will be available at:

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After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354

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