Overview

Size of Death Row by Year

The size of death row in the United States has declined every year since 2001. Currently, about 2,700 men and women are on state or federal death rows across the United States or face the possibility of being resentenced to death in new death penalty trials. That number is down by nearly a quarter from a peak of nearly 3,600 at the turn of the 21st century, with a 17% decrease over the course of the decade from April 1, 2008 to March 31, 2018.The number of prisoners facing active death sentences in the United States — that is, whose death sentences have not been overturned in the courts — has also fallen sharply. In the Spring of 2018, it dropped below 2,500 for the first time in more than a quarter century. The yearly decline in the size of death row has consistently exceeded the number of executions carried out, meaning that more former death-row prisoners have been resentenced to life or less after overturning their death sentences, died from non-execution causes, or been exonerated than have been added to the row with new death sentences.


Size of Death Row (1968 – present)

196851719821,05019963,21920103,158
196957519831,20919973,33520113,082
197063119841,40519983,45220123,033
197164219851,59119993,52720132,979
197233419861,78120003,59320142,942
197313419871,98420013,58120152,881
197424419882,12420023,55720162,814
197548819892,25020033,3742017*2,768
197642019902,35620043,3152018*2,721
197742319912,48220053,254
197848219922,57520063,228
197953919932,71620073,215
198069119942,89020083,207
198185619953,05420093,173


Sources: Bureau of Justice Statistics: “Capital Punishment” for Years 1968—2016
*NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “Death Row USA” for Years 2017-2018 (sources use slightly different criteria for counting death-row prisoners).