NEW RESOURCE: Sentencing Project Examines Relationship Between Incarceration and Crime

Incarceration and Crime: A Complex Relationship, a new report by The Sentencing Project, examines the financial and social costs of incarceration, and evaluates the limited effectiveness it has on crime rates. The report notes that the number of people incarcerated in the United States has risen by more than 500% over the past three decades, up from 330,000 people in 1972 to 2.1 million people today. Though an increase in the number of offenders who are incarcerated has played a modest role in the nation's decreasing crime rate, the report notes that this policy is subject to decreasing effectiveness in the long-term. The Sentencing Project warns that increasing incarceration while ignoring more effective approaches to preventing crime will impose a heavy burden upon the courts, corrections systems, and communities, while providing a marginal impact on crime. The group recommends that policymakers further assess this problem and adopt more balanced crime control policies that provide resources for crime-prevention efforts such as programming, treatment, and community support.

NEW RESOURCE: Justice Department Releases "Capital Punishment, 2004" Report

The Bureau of Justice Statistics released its latest report on the status of the death penalty in the U.S., Capital Punishment, 2004, on November 13.  According to the report, the nation's death row population, executions, and the number of people given death sentences last year all declined. There were 3,315 people on state and federal death rows at the conclusion of 2004, 63 fewer than in 2003. Last year, 125 people were sentenced to death, the fewest since 1973. Twelve states executed 59 prisoners in 2004, six fewer than in 2003.

New York Times Series Examines Life Sentences

A new study by a team of researchers at the New York Times looks at the expanding use of life sentences in the American criminal justice system.  The study, headed by Times reporter Adam Liptak, found that about 132,000 of the nation's prisoners, or almost 10%, are serving life sentences.  Of those, 28% have life sentences with no chance of parole. This is a marked increase from a 1993 Times study that found 20% of all lifers had no chance of parole. Liptak also reported that about 9,700 people are serving life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles.

Arbitrariness: Prevalence of Plea Bargains in Death Penalty Cases

In its recent study of Ohio's death penalty, the Associated Press found that of the 1,936 capital indictments filed statewide from 1981-2002, about 50% ended in plea bargains. Of those cases, 131 people who pleaded guilty in exchange for escaping the death penalty were charged with killing multiple victims. By contrast, 196 of the 274 people who were sentenced to death row during the same 21-year time span were convicted of killing a single victim. The AP's Ohio findings were similar to figures from other states and the federal government.

Death Sentences Decline in 2004



Death Sentences by State:

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:

Death Sentencing Rate By State, 1977-1999

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.


Death Penalty Sentencing Information