News

DPIC Summary: "The Meaning of 'Life': Long Prison Sentences in Context"

A report released in May, 2004 by The Sentencing Project, “The Meaning of ‘Life’: Long Prison Sentences in Context,” documents a dramatic increase in the number of prisoners serving life without parole sentences and demonstrates that prisoners are serving increasingly longer terms of incarceration. Findings in the report include the following:

Of the lifers in prison, one in four (26.3%) is serving a sentence of life without parole, having increased from one in six (17.8%) in 1992.

In six states – Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Pennsylvania, and South Dakota – all life sentences are imposed without the possibility of parole.

Seven states – Alabama, California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, and Pennsylvania – have more than 1,000 prisoners each serving sentences of life without parole.

The increase in prison time for lifers is a result of changes in state policy and not due to increases in violent crime.

LIFE WITHOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF PAROLE

In Louisiana and Pennsylvania one of every ten prisoners is serving a life sentence, which in those states means life without the possibility of parole.

Four states – Alaska, Kansas, New Mexico, and Texas – have no inmates serving life without the possibility of parole, while Louisiana leads the nation with the highest percentage of inmates serving life without the possibility of parole - 10.6%. Note: Texas holds the second largest number of people on death row in the nation; Kansas recently adopted a sentence of life without parole.

LIFE MEANS LIFE

In Georgia, the Board of Pardons and Paroles reported in 1998 that more life-sentenced inmates had died in prison that year than had been paroled. According to Parole Board Chair Walter Ray, “There’s a popular misconception that life in prison doesn’t mean all of one’s natural life. In just the last year, there are 21 Georgia lifers who are no longer around to tell you otherwise. If they could, they’d let you know that parole for a life sentence is a rare commodity.”

MENTALLY ILL OFFENDERS

Research conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics documents that one of every six people in prison has a history of mental illness. These figures are even more pronounced among the population of lifers, with nearly one in five lifers (18.4%) having a history mental illness, totaling an estimated 23,523 life-sentenced prisoners.

LIFE SENTENCES FOR JUVENILES

Over the past decade, an increasing number of states has adopted laws making it easier to try juveniles in adult court. As a result, crimes committed by young people can now result in much harsher punishments, including life sentences. While there are presently no national data on the number of such lifer cases, they are clearly increasing in many states. A recent report documents that just in the state of Michigan alone, there are at least 146 persons serving life without parole for crimes committed when they were 14-16 years old.

- Marc Mauer, Ryan S. King, and Malcolm C. Young, “The Meaning of ‘Life’: Long Prison Sentences in Context”, The Sentencing Project, May 2004.

Return to Life Without Parole


Read More 31,609 reads
Death Sentencing Rate By State, 1977-1999
DEATH SENTENCING RATE BY STATE (per murder)
The Death Sentencing Rate is the ratio of death sentences in a state between 1977 and 1999, and the number of murders in that state during approximately the same period.

State
Death
Sentence
Rate
Number of
Death Sentences,
1977-99
Murders With
Known Offenders,
1976-98
Nevada
0.060
124
2,072
Oklahoma
0.051
257
5,020
Delaware
0.048
30
626
Idaho
0.047
36
773
Arizona
0.043
213
5,007
Alabama
0.038
311
8,190
Mississippi
0.035
144
4,122
Florida
0.034
735
21,837
Ohio
0.028
285
10,142
North Carolina
0.026
327
12,463
Pennsylvania
0.024
316
13,095
Missouri
0.024
158
6,679
Nebraska
0.023
19
831
Georgia
0.022
243
10,912
Oregon
0.022
46
2,132
National Average
0.022
Texas
0.020
776
37,879
Tennessee
0.020
156
7,690
Arkansas
0.020
90
4,523
Illinois
0.019
274
14,710
Utah
0.018
19
1,080
South Carolina
0.016
138
8,451
Indiana
0.016
84
5,289
Louisiana
0.016
158
10,146
Kentucky
0.014
68
4,863
California
0.013
652
49,943
Virginia
0.013
119
9,235
New Jersey
0.010
48
4,710
Washington
0.009
34
3,628
New Mexico
0.008
12
1,480
Maryland
0.007
47
6,606
Colorado
0.004
13
3,256


NOTE: Data are for the 31 states with more than 10 death row enrollees from 1977 through 1999. Death row data are based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics capital punishment data. Murder data are based on the FBI's Supplemental Homicide Reports for 1976–1998, except for a later starting year for three states, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Oregon, in which post-Furman death penalties became effective after 1977. The death sentence rate is the number of death sentences divided by the number of murders with a known offender.

SOURCE: John Blume, Theodore Eisenberg, and Martin T. Wells, "Explaining Death Row's Population and Racial Composition," Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1, 165-207, March 2004


CLICK HERE to Return to the Death Sentence Information Page


 


Read More 11,301 reads
Death Sentences By Year: 1976-2015
YEAR SENTENCES
1976 232
1977 137
1978 185
1979 151
1980 173
1981 223
1982 267
1983 252
1984 285
1985 259
1986 301
1987 287
1988 288
1989 255
1990 251
1991 268
1992 286
1993 287
1994 315
1995 311
1996 315
1997 265
1998 294
1999 277
2000 224
2001 155
2002 165
2003 152
2004 138
2005 140
2006 125
2007 120
2008 121
2009 118
2010 109
2011  80
2012  79
2013 80
2014 73
2015 49
2016 30
TOTAL 8,087

SOURCES: 1977-2012 See Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, Capital Punishment Annual Reports, (for those persons sentenced to death more than once, only the most recent sentence is counted).

2013-2015 numbers based on DPIC research.

OTHER DEATH SENTENCE INFORMATION

 

 

 


Read More 24,330 reads
Death Sentences in the United States From 1977 By State and By Year

2012 Death Sentences by County and Race of Defendant
2013 Death Sentences by County and Race of Defendant
2014 Death Sentences by County and Race of Defendant
2015 Death Sentences by County and Race of Defendant

  2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989 1988 1987 1986 1985 1984 1983 1982 1981 1980 1979 1978 1977  
FEDERAL 0 1 4 2 1 0 3 4 3 6 5 6 10 2 5 2 2 1 5 3 4 2 0 5 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 FEDERAL
MILITARY 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 MILITARY
NORTHEAST 1 2 5 4 7 5 3 8 7 8 4 8 7 7 10 7 16 21 14 13 14 23 24 22 16 21 13 17 22 22 25 20 21 19 9 5 3 4 0 8 NORTHEAST
CT 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 2 0 1 1 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 2 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 CT
NH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 NH
NJ 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 3 3 2 3 4 0 0 3 1 1 8 6 7 7 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 NJ
NY 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 4 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 NY
PA 1 2 4 4 6 4 2 8 5 6 4 7 5 6 9 6 12 15 12 10 11 20 21 17 16 19 10 15 21 13 19 13 14 15 9 5 3 4 0 8 PA
RI 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 RI
VT 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 VT
MIDWEST 5 2 5 11 7 4 9 7 14 9 10 11 13 14 21 14 20 29 33 27 47 43 36 32 42 37 34 26 51 36 58 54 46 39 26 25 27 18 23 27 MIDWEST
IL 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 3 3 3 1 4 2 6 1 9 8 7 6 16 13 11 12 16 7 17 9 13 11 25 15 12 16 10 11 16 14 4 1 IL
IN 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 4 0 2 2 3 1 3 3 2 2 4 3 3 1 8 4 6 10 7 6 5 5 4 1 2 1 IN
KS 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 2 0 1 0 1 1 2 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 KS
MO 0 0 0 3 1 0 0 2 6 1 4 2 2 3 2 5 3 7 6 10 9 10 9 6 7 13 6 5 17 9 10 8 7 2 8 7 5 2 0 0 MO
NE 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 1 2 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 3 0 0 2 2 1 4 0 NE
OH 4 1 3 4 5 3 7 1 3 5 2 5 5 7 7 5 3 10 16 8 17 17 13 11 14 13 8 11 12 12 15 21 17 15 3 0 0 0 13 25 OH
SD 0 0 1 1 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 SD
SOUTH 12 25 40 34 45 50 45 49 58 71 71 70 75 85 102 93 131 162 186 157 168 184 195 165 149 158 144 145 153 186 174 167 157 143 157 141 114 93 134 87 SOUTH
AL 3 6 4 5 5 9 7 9 9 13 13 12 7 6 11 7 11 12 25 15 19 17 24 8 15 6 14 20 13 14 8 13 9 13 20 14 8 10 20 15 AL
AR 1 2 2 0 1 0 1 0 3 2 0 2 2 0 0 2 3 5 4 5 5 4 8 7 4 2 7 6 3 4 4 6 1 1 3 12 3 2 4 2 AR
DE 0 1 0 1 2 2 0 0 1 2 2 0 2 2 2 5 0 2 2 4 0 1 0 6 5 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 2 0 1 0 DE
FL 2 9 11 15 20 14 14 15 16 21 18 15 9 11 10 15 20 20 25 18 25 31 39 32 27 45 31 37 42 44 39 27 38 34 39 24 29 23 32 25 FL
GA 0 0 1 0 2 1 0 2 3 4 0 3 3 1 3 1 4 8 11 13 6 7 6 8 8 7 14 9 7 15 11 8 12 7 8 5 9 12 5 10 GA
KY 0 0 1 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 4 1 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 2 2 0 4 2 3 3 0 1 2 3 8 6 2 6 6 4 4 0 3 0 KY
LA 0 1 3 0 2 5 2 3 3 1 3 4 6 1 7 2 9 10 9 12 9 12 6 7 7 7 0 0 1 9 3 10 5 5 1 0 0 0 1 0 LA
MD 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 2 1 2 0 7 0 0 1 2 1 4 2 1 1 2 0 8 0 7 7 1 1 0 0 MD
MS 0 1 1 2 2 1 4 2 0 2 4 2 2 3 5 2 3 4 8 7 9 3 5 12 4 5 10 3 3 12 2 5 7 5 10 13 3 1 2 7 MS
NC 1 0 3 1 0 3 4 2 1 3 5 6 4 6 7 14 18 24 20 22 25 34 27 32 22 17 14 9 17 16 11 20 12 11 12 5 8 7 6 2 NC
OK 1 3 2 1 1 0 0 2 9 3 4 5 5 9 7 2 7 6 15 11 16 15 12 8 5 12 9 11 15 15 16 14 16 8 8 9 7 9 12 5 OK
SC 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 2 4 4 4 3 5 5 5 8 5 5 8 5 8 10 7 7 2 8 3 7 4 1 13 9 9 12 2 8 7 5 3 4 SC
TN 0 0 1 0 1 3 1 3 0 1 1 2 3 6 4 3 4 6 4 7 3 4 4 2 7 12 8 6 7 9 7 11 8 5 8 8 6 3 7 0 TN
TX 4 2 11 9 9 8 8 8 9 14 11 14 23 29 37 26 34 48 39 32 33 40 43 27 31 26 24 29 34 36 41 36 21 33 28 26 26 17 33 16 TX
VA 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 1 0 1 2 1 2 6 3 4 8 7 9 4 1 6 10 6 7 6 6 5 3 6 9 2 9 3 4 5 4 3 5 1 VA
WEST 12 19 18 32 19 22 44 44 29 21 25 33 20 36 19 39 45 59 47 56 66 58 49 58 58 49 53 63 70 55 40 32 56 51 72 57 43 44 26 11 WEST
AZ 1 3 3 4 4 8 9 14 6 7 6 8 4 9 1 7 7 6 6 8 5 5 10 13 8 13 11 8 13 12 6 4 12 7 15 8 12 16 10 4 AZ
CA 9 14 14 25 13 10 24 29 20 10 17 23 11 19 14 24 31 43 31 36 39 36 22 33 37 24 33 30 32 27 24 16 27 33 39 40 24 20 7 0 CA
CO 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 2 CO
ID 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 2 0 1 1 1 1 0 0 2 2 2 1 3 3 0 1 1 7 0 5 2 0 1 0 1 ID
MT 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 2 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 MT
NV 1 2 0 2 1 0 4 1 1 2 1 1 1 4 1 1 7 5 2 4 10 11 8 3 2 4 5 10 7 5 5 7 8 6 5 4 3 3 4 1 NV
NM 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 1 2 2 1 0 0 0 NM
OR 1 0 1 0 0 3 3 0 0 2 1 1 2 2 0 2 0 2 3 3 3 2 6 4 6 3 0 8 11 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 0 OR
UT 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 3 2 1 0 2 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 1 UT
WA 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 0 3 3 2 1 2 2 1 1 3 0 0 1 2 1 0 2 2 0 0 1 4 2 WA
WY 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 1 0 0 WY
TOTAL 30 49 73 83 82 85 114 118 120 126 123 140 138 151 166 153 223 279 295 266 315 310 311 290 283 267 250 255 287 288 301 258 286 252 265 223 172 150 183 137 TOTAL
  2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 1990 1989 1988 1987 1986 1985 1984 1983 1982 1981 1980 1979 1978 1977    

SOURCES: 1977-2013 See Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, Capital Punishment Annual Reports (for those persons sentenced to death more than once, only the most recent sentence is counted).

*2014, 2015, and 2016 numbers based on DPIC research.

NOTE: The Bureau of Justice Statistics makes revisions to its national annual totals in subsequent reports, but does not provide the revisions to each state. The totals at the bottom of the chart are the most recent available. There may be a slight discrepancy with the totals at the bottom from the totals based on individual states. The regional breakdowns are based on BJS classifications.

STATES WITHOUT THE DEATH PENALTY (19) (YEAR ABOLISHED IN PARENTHESES)

Alaska (1957)
Connecticut (2012)*
Delaware (2016)#
Hawaii (1957)
Illinois (2011)
Iowa (1965)
Maine (1887)
Maryland (2013)**
Massachusetts (1984)

Michigan (1846)
Minnesota (1911)
New Jersey (2007)
New Mexico (2009)¥
New York (2007)##
North Dakota (1973)
Rhode Island (1984)^
Vermont (1964)
West Virginia (1965)
Wisconsin (1853)

ALSO
Dist. of Columbia (1981) 
 

¥ In March 2009, New Mexico voted to abolish the death penalty. However, the repeal was not retroactive, leaving two people on the state's death row.

* In April 2012, Connecticut voted to abolish the death penalty. However, the repeal was not retroactive, leaving 11 people on the state's death row. In August 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court declared that the death penalty violated the state's constitution, and the court reaffirmed that ruling in May 2016, meaning that all prisoners remaining on death row would be resentenced to life without possibility of parole. 

** In May 2013, Maryland abolished the death penalty. However, the repeal was not retroactive, leaving 5 people on the state's death row. In January 2015, Gov. Martin O'Malley commuted the death sentences of the 4 prisoners who were still on death row at that time.

^ In 1979, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island held that a statute making a death sentence mandatory for someone who killed a fellow prisoner was unconstitutional. The legislature removed the statute in 1984.

# In August 2016, the Delaware Supreme Court held that the state's death-sentencing procedures were unconstitutional. The state legislature has not attempted to reinstate the death penalty, leaving the state without an enforceable capital punishment statute.

## In 2004, the New York Court of Appeals held that a portion of the state's death penalty law was unconstitutional.  In 2007, they ruled that their prior holding applied to the last remaining person on the state's death row.  The legislature has voted down attempts to restore the statute.

 


Read More 61,515 reads