BJS Report: Capital Punishment in the U.S. is Decreasing

A recent BJS report presents statistics on state and federal prisoners on death row in the United States in 2020. The key points are as follows:

A total of 28 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) held 2,469 prisoners on death row

Three states accounted for half of the prisoners on death row, led by California (28%), Florida (14%), and Texas (8%)
The majority (98%) of offenders were male
56% of death row inmates were White and 41% were Black or African American
People were on death row for an average of 19.4 years

Federal prisoners were executed more often than state prisoners

There were a total of 17 people executed in 2020, 10 of which were done by the BOP

Use of the death penalty is decreasing over time

The number of people on death row declined for the 20th consecutive year
There was a 4% decline in the number of prisoners on death row when comparing 2020 with 2019
During 2020, 17 states reported a decrease in the number of prisoners on death row, 16 reported no change, and 0 reported an increase
The largest declines occurred in California (-24 prisoners) and Pennsylvania (-14 prisoners)
The large decrease in California is likely due to the large population size

The death penalty is still authorized in 31 states as well as the Federal BOP, despite its decreased usageĀ 

28 of these 31 states and the Federal BOP had inmates on death row in 2020, though only five states and the BOP actually executed people
All of these states authorized lethal injection
15 also recognized alternative methods:
Electrocution (9 states)
Lethal gas (3 states)
Firing squad (3 states)
Nitrogen hypoxia (3 states)
Hanging (2 states)


While the death penalty is still authorized for use in many states as well as the BOP, it appears that it is not used very frequently
The use of the death penalty has been decreasing over time and continues to decrease
California accounted for a large portion of the decrease, however this is likely due to population size

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