Everything You Need to Know About the Death Penalty in the U.S. in 2018, Including How Many States Still Have It

Hand of prisoner

Hand of a prisoner | Manuel-F-O/iStock/Getty Images

Recently, The New York Times notes Pope Francis said the death penalty was “an attack” on the “dignity of the person” — and it’s definitely gathering a lot of attention. It’s been argued in the past that the church didn’t totally oppose capital punishment. But now, Francis and the church are hoping to abolish this method worldwide — and it may start with the U.S. This could put many Catholic politicians who support the death penalty at odds.

Whether you’re for or against capital punishment in the U.S., a whopping 31 states still use it today, The Sun reports. Here are all the details regarding the death penalty that you should know.

The states that use capital punishment

Wondering if your state allows capital punishment? Here are the 31 states that do, according to data provided by The Sun.

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Out of the 19 states where the death penalty is currently illegal, ProCon.org notes some of the states banned the practice quite recently. Delaware was the latest state to illegalize capital punishment in 2016. On the other hand, Nebraska reinstated the practice in 2016 as well after abolishing it the previous year.

How many people are executed yearly?

The Sun notes since 1976, the U.S. has carried out nearly 1,500 executions in total. But while 31 states allow for the death penalty, many of these states haven’t actually practiced an execution in years. Statista notes in 2018, Texas has already carried out seven executions, which is the same number they performed in both 2017 and 2016. In recent times, the highest number of executions occurred in 2015 with 13 that year alone.

As for the other states, Georgia and Alabama have both carried out two executions in 2018, and Florida has performed one. Business Insider also mentions that capital punishment has reached record lows at the state and federal level across the U.S., but under President Trump, that could change. The president has mentioned previously that he thinks drug dealers and traffickers should get capital punishment

How long does a death row prisoner wait to be executed?

The Sun says the average death row prisoner waits 14 years and 8 months from the time they’re sentenced to the time they’re actually executed.

As for who’s on death row, the numbers vary quite a bit. CNN notes as of October 2016, there are 54 women on death row. And on the federal level, the U.S. government and military have 61 people waiting to be executed. In total, as of October 2016, there are 2,902 people awaiting execution.

How are those on death row executed?

Believe it or not, some prisoners get a say in how they’re executed depending on which state they’re in. Death Penalty Information Center reports the primary method of execution is lethal injection, as it’s been voted the most humane. All 31 states, including the U.S. military and government, have authorized this method — and 1,303 executions have been performed this way since 1976.

As for other methods, death by electrocution can also still occur in some instances. Nine states will still utilize this method in circumstances where lethal injection cannot be done. And a total of 158 people have been put to death this way since 1976.

Lethal gas, hanging and firing squad are the final three methods — though they’re rarely used. Eleven people have died via firing squad, and six states still allow this method when injection can’t be done. As for hanging and firing squad, only six people in total have been executed by either of these methods, and three states allow for it.

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