How Many People Are On Death Row In 2022?

Twenty-seven states in the U.S. currently have the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Despite this considerable number, NPR writes that executions are relatively rare, which means that those sentenced to die are spending a long time on death row. That being said, the death penalty continues to divide the country. Organizations like the ACLU, believe it to be immoral and unconstitutional. However, a 2021 study done by the Pew Research Center found that 60% of Americans were in favor of the death penalty for individuals convicted of murder. The same study notes that Americans feel uneasy about how the death penalty is carried out. 

According to The Hill, questions have arisen regarding the manner in which those sentenced to death row are executed and if these practices are in fact humane. The Death Penalty Information Center reports that execution by lethal injection is the most frequently used technique. In addition, electrocution, lethal gas, hanging, and firing squad are all methods that have been utilized in the United States.

Another article from the Death Penalty Information Center explains the crimes that could have led an individual to death row. Besides murder, six states prior to 2008, including Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Montana, Louisiana, and Georgia, could impose the death penalty for the rape of a child. Since 1977, 1,542 people have been executed in the United States as of December 2022 (via the Death Penalty Information Center).

California has the most people on death row

As of April 1, 2022, the Legal Defense Fund states that 2,414 individuals were on death row in the United States. Just over 42% of those condemned to death are white while nearly 41% are Black. Furthermore, almost 98% of people on death row are male. Only 2% are female. In 2022, 18 prisoners were executed (as of December 20, 2022), per the Death Penalty Information Center. According to another article by the Death Penalty Information Center, California, Florida, and Texas are the top three states with the most people on death row. California alone has a reported 690 waiting to be executed.

However, NPR writes California currently has a moratorium on the death penalty that was implemented back in 2019. Governor Newsom explained his reasoning behind this decision and stated, "It has provided no public safety benefit or value as a deterrent. It has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. But most of all, the death penalty is absolute, irreversible, and irreparable in the event of a human error." 

Al Jazeera reports that Newsom announced in early 2022 that he planned to shut down San Quentin State Prison's death row and move those incarcerated there to other prisons. According to Death Penalty Focus, there has not been an execution in California since 2006.

This is what it's like to be on death row

NPR explains that some inmates spend decades on death row. In fact, in 2000, the time between sentencing and execution was an average of 11.4 years. By 2020, this number had grown to 18.9 years. The large gap is the result of appeals to postpone executions, amongst other things. In California, for example, The Marshall Project reports that Douglas Ray Stankewitz has been on death row for a whopping 43 years. This makes him the longest-serving person on death row in the state. Needless to say, people on death row face harsh conditions. This includes isolation coupled with the unpredictability of when they will be executed (via the Death Penalty Information Center).

According to NPR, the term "death row syndrome" has been coined to explain the psychological effects death row has on those sentenced to die. Derrick Jamison, formerly on death row in Ohio, received a reprieve only 90 minutes before his scheduled execution (per Witness to Innocence) after spending 20 years on death row. In other words, he had an inside look at what it was like in the moments before and up to his impending death. 

He told A&E, "You're by yourself in your cell. Every minute feels like an hour. It was horrible — knowing you're going to die. Waiting to die. My mama told me, 'Whenever you're feeling bad, pray.' I did a lot of praying."