The Clustering of the Death Penalty

The Clustering of the Death Penalty

INTRODUCTION

Although the death penalty continues to exist in 32 states, it is actually carried out by only a small percentage of jurisdictions.  For example, in 2012 only 9 states carried out an execution.  Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976 through to April 2013, almost 82% of the executions have been in the South. Even within a state, the death penalty is usually only practiced in a handful of counties, though the expense is often shared by all taxpayers.

The Death Penalty Information Center has analyzed the use of the death penalty on a county basis, examining:

A. Executions By County
B. Death Row Inmates By County
C. Recent Death Sentences By County

The charts on this and related pages illustrate the geographical disparities in the use of the death penalty.

A. Executions by County

Total Number of Counties in the U.S. = 3,143 (source: U.S. Census Bureau)

Execution numbers accurate as of Jan. 1, 2013

These 15 counties accounted for 30% of the executions in the U.S. since 1976.  They represent less than 1% of the total number of counties in the country, and less than 1% of the total number of counties in states with the death penalty.

Executions by County

Sources: Execution data taken from DPIC's Execution Database. Thanks to Professor Frank Baumgartner at University of North Carolina for county information.

Related:

Executions by County

Execution Database, sortable by county

B. Death Row Inmates by County

Although we have not determined the county of sentencing for every person sentenced to death, we have identified the county for each person currently on death row. The map below is based on the county of sentencing for all inmates on death row as of January 1, 2013.

These ten counties account for over 27% of all death row inmates as of Jan. 1, 2013, but they represent less than 1% of the counties in the U.S. and less than 1% of the counties with the death penalty in the U.S.

Sources: NAACP Legal Defense Fund "Death Row, USA," State Departments of Corrections, Public Defenders, DPIC research

Related:

Death Row

Death Row by County

"Death Row, USA," from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Download a spreadsheet of county data for all inmates on death row as of January 1, 2013.

C. Recent Death Sentences by County

The death sentences in these nine counties represent 35% of the sentences handed down in 2012. These nine counties represent less than 1% of the counties in the U.S. and less than 1% of the counties with the death penalty in the U.S.

Sources: Media reports, Departments of Corrections

Related:

Sentencing

2014 Death Sentences by Race and County

Additional Links:

Arbitrariness

Executions

Death Row