Crime: Death Penalty

The total number of executions in the United States.
The total number of executions in the United States.  

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14 Year Low for Executions
Published Thursday, December 11th, 2008

In the news, the Death Penalty has reached a 14 year low as the number of execution fell to 37 for the entire United States. The history of the use of the death penalty has had its ups and downs.  In the colonial times, the death penalty was used for all manner of offenses from sodomy to aiding runaway slaves.  Over time, the use of the death penalty was more narrowly defined and even discontinued for a time: the US Supreme Court struck down the death penalty under the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment in the case of Furman Vs. Georgia 1972.  So from the time this case went to court until it was overturned, executions stopped in the US from 1968-1976, and from 1976 to 1984, executions in the US were in the single digits.

This new low is a result of the downward trend started in 2000 with the drop in executions from 98 to 85 and the slump in overall prisoners on death row.  However, the big discussion carried on from the Furman case is the disproportionate number of minorities executed as apposed to white prisoners.  With 2007, Death Row and population figures by race, the percentage of black prisoners sentenced to death is approximately 4.5 times more than that of white prisoners and 17.5 times that of hispanics and other minorities.

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US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Capital Punishment Statistics - http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/cp.htm
Capital Punishment, presents characteristics of persons under sentence of death at yearend and of persons executed. This annual BJS report summarizes the movement of prisoners into and out of death sentence status during the year.

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Department of Justice: Restorative Justice Program - http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/topics/courts/restorative-justice/welcome.htm
For some time now there has been growing dissatisfaction with the justice system. Citizens feel disconnected, victims are dissatisfied, and those working in the system are frustrated. Policymakers are increasingly concerned about the burgeoning cost of justice in the face of this discontent and the high rates of recidivism that exist.