The number of people sentenced to death or facing continuing jeopardy of execution in pending capital retrial or resentencing proceedings continued its more than two-decade decline in the third quarter of 2021, according to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) Fall 2021 quarterly census of death rows across the United States.

In its Fall 2021 edition of Death Row USA (DRUSA), released February 7, 2022, LDF reported that the number of people on state, federal, or military death rows or facing possible capital resentencing across the United States had fallen to 2,455 as of October 1, 2021, down by 98 from LDF’s Fall 2020 report. It is the lowest total since January 1991 when 2,412 people were on U.S. death rows or faced jeopardy of being resentenced to death. Death row, which peaked at 3,717 in the July 2001 DRUSA report, has declined by 34.0% since then.

LDF found that the capital convictions or death sentences of 219 people listed in its report have been reversed, leaving roughly one in eleven cases awaiting retrial or resentencing or with grants of relief still subject to prosecutorial appeal. Excluding those individuals, the number people in the United States facing active death sentences fell to 2,236 from its from total of 2,326 in October 2020.

LDF reported that 849 people, or 34.6% of those on death row or facing capital resentencing as of October 1, 2021 were in states with moratoria on executions. Including those in other states whose death sentences have been reversed, LDF calculated that there were 1,034 currently unenforceable death sentences, comprising 41.4% of all active cases in which a death sentence has been imposed. That left 1,438 death-row prisoners with currently enforceable death sentences.

California’s death row declined to 695 prisoners but remained more than double the size of death row in any other state. It was followed by Florida (333), Texas (198), and Alabama (170). Nationwide, 42.4% of death-row prisoners were white, 41.2% were Black, 13.6% Latinx, 1.9% Asian, and 1.0% were Native American. Among states with at least 10 prisoners on death row, Texas (72.2%), Louisiana (72.3%), California (67.2%), Nebraska (66.7%), and Pennsylvania (61.5%) were the states with the highest percentage of individuals of color on death row. Two percent of all death-row prisoners are women.


NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Death Row USA, Fall 2021.