America's embrace of the death penalty makes us a gross anomaly in the developed world. The good news is that we seem to be growing less and less fond of it. The newest numbers are (relatively) encouraging.
The Death Penalty Information Center has released its yearly report on the death penalty in America. By virtually all measures, we seem to be heading in a less bloodthirsty direction. Among the findings:
- There were 39 executions in America this year. The number has been trending downwards since it reached a peak of 98 in 1999.
- There were 80 new death sentences this year. That is near the lowest number in 40 years.
- Maryland this year became the sixth state in six years to abolish the death penalty. There are 32 states that still have the death penalty.
- There are just over 3,100 inmates on death row in America. That figure has been trending downwards since it peaked in 2000 at 3,670.
- This is the best indicator of the capriciousness and unequal application of the death penalty in America: "Only 2% of the counties in the U.S. have been responsible for the majority of cases leading to executions since 1976. Likewise, only 2% of the counties are responsible for the majority of today's death row population and recent death sentences."
One of the 39 people executed this year was Douglas Feldman, who wrote to us as part of our "Letters from Death Row" series. We have mailed a new batch of letters to inmates scheduled for execution in 2014, and we hope to receive some replies in the new year.