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BJS Releases Annual Data Collection on Capital Punishment for 2017

by Douglas Ankney

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (“BJS”) released its data collection on capital punishment for 2017. The BJS obtained data relating to every person under sentence of death in the federal government (excluding military prisoners) and in the 34 states that authorize the death penalty.

Here are some selected findings:

* the number of prisoners held under sentence of death declined for the 17th consecutive year to a total of 2,703;

* 4.6 times as many prisoners were removed from death row by means other than execution than were killed by execution;

* 81 prisoners left death row due to changes in their sentence, 24 prisoners died from cause other than execution, and 23 were killed by execution;

* 20 of the 23 killings by execution were in the South;

* the average time between imposition of the death sentence and the execution was 20.25 years;

* 16 of the 23 prisoners killed by execution in 2017 were sentenced in 1999 or earlier; and

* half of all new death row admissions were concentrated in three Pacific Southwest states yet none of those states executed anyone.

The BJS also reported that while the population of prisoners on death row increased in three states and in the federal government, the population decreased in 18 states, and remained the same in 11 states.

The death row population decreased in Florida and Delaware by 33 and 12, respectively, which coincides with court decisions declaring their capital sentencing procedures unconstitutional.


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