Death row

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Death row is a special section of a prison in the United States, that houses inmates who are awaiting execution after being sentenced to death for the conviction of a capital crime. Thirty-two of its 50 states and the federal government authorize this penalty.[1]

"Death row" is a term also used figuratively to describe the state of awaiting execution ("being on death row"), even in places where no special facility or separate unit for condemned inmates exists.

United States

Louisiana and several other states hold people on death row in solitary confinement and extreme isolation, in windowless cells 23 hours a day, with virtually no human contact except with guards. Such prisoners are not allowed to take part in any educational or work programs. Opponents of capital punishment claim that a prisoner's extreme social isolation on death row and uncertainty over his or her fate constitute a form of mental cruelty. Long-time death row inmates are liable to become mentally ill, if they are not already. This is referred to as the death row phenomenon. In extreme cases some inmates may attempt to commit suicide.

In March 2017, three men on death row at Angola Prison in Louisiana filed a federal class-action suit against the state Department of Corrections and prison for its policy of placing prisoners sentenced to death in solitary confinement. Each man had been held in solitary more than 25 years. Angola has 71 prisoners on death row, but the state has executed a small proportion of such prisoners, "fewer than 12 percent over the last 30 years."[2] So inmates sentenced to death may serve nearly life in solitary.

In the United States, prisoners may wait many years as they appeal their convictions or sentences. The time between sentencing and execution has increased relatively steadily from 1977, when some states reinstated their death penalties through new legislation, to 2010. The time to execution increased between 2008 and 2009, as the Supreme Court had suspended all executions from 2007 to 2008, when it was studying the constitutionality of lethal injection as a method of execution.

Another factor since then has been the rise of non-profit law firms, the Innocence Project, and pro bono lawyers, often in association with centers at university law schools, who have provided counsel to death row inmates. In some cases they have gained full exoneration; in others they have gained new trials or resentencing, including commutation of death sentences to life in prison or time served. In 2010, a death row inmate waited an average of 178 months (roughly 15 years) between sentencing and execution.[3] Nearly a quarter of inmates on death row in the U.S. die of natural causes while awaiting execution or appealing their cases.[4]

Supreme Court Justices opposing the death penalty such as Justice Stevens and Justice Breyer have at multiple times argued in their dissents that the delays and waiting on death row was a factor making capital punishment unconstitutional as a cruel and unusual punishment. Their views were rejected by concurring opinions from more conservatives justices such as Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas, who said that these long delays were caused by the convicts themselves and by "Justices opposed to the death penalty."[5][6]

Other nations

The United States is the only Western country that applies the death penalty and conducts executions.[7] Other industrialized and developed nations that apply the death penalty are Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan. South Korea has a law for the death penalty, but has declared a moratorium on executions.

When the United Kingdom had capital punishment, sentenced inmates were given one appeal. If that appeal was found to involve an important point of law, it was taken up to the House of Lords. If the appeal was successful, at that point the sentence was changed to life in prison.[8] The Home Secretary in the United Kingdom had the power to exercise the Sovereign's royal prerogative of mercy to grant a reprieve on execution and change the sentence to life imprisonment.

Death rows in the United States via State

United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute houses the male death row prisoners sentenced by the U.S. federal government
San Quentin State Prison in California houses the male death row prisoners sentenced by the state
Allan B. Polunsky Unit in Texas houses the male death row prisoners sentenced by the state
Louisiana State Penitentiary houses the male death row prisoners sentenced by the state
The Mississippi State Penitentiary, which houses male death row prisoners sentenced by the State of Mississippi
Oklahoma State Penitentiary, which houses male death row prisoners sentenced by the state of Oklahoma

There were 3,125 people on death row in the United States on January 1, 2013.[9]

As of 2010, California (683), Florida (390), Texas (330) and Pennsylvania (218) housed more than half of all inmates pending on death row.[10][11] A shortage of execution drugs, due to European pharmaceutical companies refusing to have their products used for such purpose, has led to or influenced decisions to suspend executions in Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, and Tennessee.[12]

As of 2008, the longest-serving prisoner on death row in the US who has been executed was Jack Alderman, who served more than 33 years. He was executed in Georgia in 2008.[10]

Gary Alvord was placed on Florida's death row in 1974. On April 9, 2013, Alvord had been on death row for exactly 39 years; he died on May 19, 2013, from a brain tumor. He had been on death row longer than any other United States inmate.[13] The oldest prisoner on death row in the United States was Leroy Nash, age 94, in Arizona. He died of natural causes on February 12, 2010.[14]

Death row locations in the United States

Men's death row Women's death row
Civilian Federal United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, Terre Haute, Indiana[15] Federal Medical Center, Carswell, Fort Worth, Texas[16][17][18]
Military United States Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Naval Consolidated Brig, Miramar, San Diego, California1
State Men's death row Women's death row
Alabama Holman Correctional Facility, Atmore[19] and William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, Bessemer [20] Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women[21]
Arizona Arizona State Prison Complex - Eyman[22] Arizona State Prison Complex - Perryville[22]
Arkansas Varner Unit[23] McPherson Unit[24]
California San Quentin State Prison[25] Central California Women’s Facility[25]
Colorado No designated death row
Currently all DR prisoners are at Sterling Correctional Facility[26]
Colorado Women's Correctional Facility[citation needed]
Delaware James T. Vaughn Correctional Center[27] Delores J. Baylor Women's Correctional Institution[27]
Florida Union Correctional Institution and Florida State Prison[28] Lowell Correctional Institution Annex[28]
Georgia Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Butts County[29] Arrendale State Prison, Habersham County[30]
Idaho Idaho Maximum Security Institution, Boise Pocatello Women's Correctional Center, Pocatello
Indiana Indiana State Prison, Michigan City Indiana Women's Prison, Indianapolis
Kansas El Dorado Correctional Facility, El Dorado Topeka Correctional Facility, Topeka
Kentucky Kentucky State Penitentiary, Eddyville[31] Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women, Peewee Valley[32]
Louisiana Louisiana State Penitentiary, unincorporated West Feliciana Parish[33] Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women, St. Gabriel[34]
Mississippi Mississippi State Penitentiary, Sunflower County[35] Central Mississippi Correctional Facility[35]
Missouri Potosi Correctional Center[36] Women's Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center[37]
Montana Montana State Prison, Deer Lodge Montana Women's Prison, Billings
Nebraska Tecumseh State Correctional Institution, Tecumseh Nebraska Correctional Center for Women, York
Nevada Ely State Prison, Ely[38] Florence McClure Women's Correctional Center, North Las Vegas[39]
New Hampshire New Hampshire State Prison for Men, Concord New Hampshire State Prison for Women, Goffstown
New Mexico Penitentiary of New Mexico, Santa Fe County New Mexico Women's Correctional Facility, Grants
North Carolina Central Prison, Raleigh[40] North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women, Raleigh[40]
Ohio Chillicothe Correctional Institution, Chillicothe,[41] Ohio State Penitentiary, Youngstown[41] and Franklin Medical Center, Columbus[41] Ohio Reformatory for Women, Marysville[41]
Oklahoma Oklahoma State Penitentiary, McAlester Mabel Bassett Correctional Center, Oklahoma City
Oregon Oregon State Penitentiary, Salem[42] Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, Wilsonville[42]
Pennsylvania SCI-Greene, Franklin Township
and Skippack Township (SCI Graterford)[43]
SCI-Muncy, Clinton Township[43]
South Carolina Lieber Correctional Institution, Ridgeville[44] Camille Griffin Graham Correctional Institution, Columbia[45]
South Dakota South Dakota State Penitentiary, Sioux Falls South Dakota Women's Prison, Pierre
Tennessee Riverbend Maximum Security Institution, Nashville[46] and Morgan County Correctional Complex, Wartburg[46] Tennessee Prison for Women, Nashville[46]
Texas Polunsky Unit, West Livingston[47][48] Mountain View Unit, Gatesville[48]
Utah Utah State Prison, Draper Central Utah Correctional Facility, Gunnison
Virginia Sussex I State Prison, Sussex County[49][50] Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, Troy[51][52]
Washington Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla[53] Washington Corrections Center for Women, Gig Harbor[53]
Wyoming Wyoming State Penitentiary, Rawlins Wyoming Women's Center, Lusk

Notes: 1Naval Consolidated Brig, Miramar is the only facility in the United States Department of Defense designated to house female Level III inmates.

See also


  1. ^ "Death penalty repeal officially on hold until 2016 election". Archived from the original on June 11, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016. 
  2. ^ LIAM STACK, "3 Men on Death Row in Louisiana Sue Over Solitary Confinement", New York Times, 30 March 2017; accessed 30 March 2017
  3. ^ "Department of Justice: Capital Punishment, 2010 Figures". Journalist's 
  4. ^ United States Department of Justice
  5. ^ "BAZE et al. v. REES, COMMISSIONER, KENTUCKY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al". Retrieved July 25, 2017. 
  6. ^ "GLOSSIP et al. v. GROSS et al". Retrieved July 25, 2017. 
  7. ^ Leigh B. Bienen (201). Murder and Its Consequences: Essays on Capital Punishment in America (2 ed.). Northwestern University Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-8101-2697-8. 
  8. ^ "History of Capital Punishment". 
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b Jack Alderman Executed
  11. ^ "Death penalty flux". March 23, 2015. Retrieved April 25, 2015. 
  12. ^ Algar, Clare (October 22, 2013). "Big Pharma May Help End The Death Penalty". The New Republic.
  13. ^ "A man too crazy to be executed". Tampa Bay Times. 
  14. ^ "BBC News - Oldest US death row inmate dies aged 94". Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  15. ^ "Special Confinement Unit Opens at USP Terre Haute Archived 2010-12-03 at the Wayback Machine.." Federal Bureau of Prisons. July 13, 1999. Retrieved on October 3, 2010.
  16. ^ Marshall, John. "Lisa Montgomery gets death penalty for killing pregnant woman." Associated Press at the Southeast Missourian. Friday April 4, 2008. Retrieved on October 3, 2010. "Department of Justice spokesman Don Ledford said Montgomery will likely be sent to the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, a women's correctional facility that has medical services for inmates."
  17. ^ "Lisa M Montgomery." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on October 3, 2010.
  18. ^ "Angela Johnson." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on October 14, 2010.
  19. ^ "Annual Report Fiscal Year 2003." Alabama Department of Corrections. 33/84. Retrieved on August 15, 2010. "which also included a cellblock for 20 death row inmates."
  20. ^ "Annual Report Fiscal Year 2003." Alabama Department of Corrections. 21/84. Retrieved on August 15, 2010. "Donaldson has a death row unit with a capacity of 24 inmates."
  21. ^ "Annual Report Fiscal Year 2003." Alabama Department of Corrections. 45/84. Retrieved on August 15, 2010. "Tutwiler also has a death row,"
  22. ^ a b "Death Row Information and Frequently Asked Questions." Arizona Department of Corrections. Retrieved on February 23, 2011.
  23. ^ "State Capitol Week in Review." State of Arkansas. June 13, 2008. Retrieved on August 15, 2010. "Executions are carried out in the Cummins Unit, which is adjacent to Varner."
  24. ^ Haddigan, Michael. "They Kill Women, Don't They?" Arkansas Times. April 9, 1999. Retrieved on August 15, 2010.
  25. ^ a b "History of Capital Punishment in California Archived July 24, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.." California Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 16, 2010. "All male prisoners on condemned status are housed at a maximum-security custody level in three units at San Quentin State Prison. Females are housed in a maximum-security unit at Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla."
  26. ^ "Death Row FAQ." (Archive) Colorado Department of Corrections. Retrieved on April 19, 2012.
  27. ^ a b "Death Row Fact Sheet Archived 2010-08-18 at the Wayback Machine.." Delaware Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 16, 2010.
  28. ^ a b "Death Row Fact Sheet." Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 15, 2010.
  29. ^ "Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison Archived 2010-04-23 at the Wayback Machine.." Georgia Department of Corrections. Retrieved on July 18, 2010.
  30. ^ "Inmates Under Death Sentence January 1, 2012 Changes to UDS Population During 2011." (Archive) Georgia Department of Corrections. Retrieved on November 18, 2012.
  31. ^ Barrouquere, Brett. "Inmate challenges sedatives used in lethal injections Wilson also claims state doesn't provide enough information to inmates." The Harlan Daily Enterprise. November 24, 2007. Retrieved on September 8, 2010.
  32. ^ "Kentucky State Penitentiary Prepares For 165th Execution Archived 2011-09-28 at the Wayback Machine.." WLKY. Retrieved on September 8, 2010.
  33. ^ "Life After Death Row." CBS News. April 25, 2010. Retrieved on August 16, 2010. "Rideau was sent to Louisiana's Angola Prison, where he spent a decade waiting to be executed."
  34. ^ "Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women Archived 2010-09-24 at the Wayback Machine.." Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections. Retrieved on August 16, 2010.
  35. ^ a b "Division of Institutions State Prisons." Mississippi Department of Corrections. April 21, 2010. Retrieved on May 21, 2010.
  36. ^ Lombardi, George, Richard D. Sluder, and Donald Wallace. "The Management of Death-Sentenced Inmates: Issues, Realities, and Innovative Strategies Archived 2010-05-27 at the Wayback Machine.." Missouri Department of Corrections. 8-9. Retrieved on September 18, 2010.
  37. ^ Patrick, Robert. "Prosecutors vow to seek death penalty in Pamela Hupp murder trial". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 25 November 2017. 
  38. ^ "Organization Archived 2010-05-27 at the Wayback Machine.." Nevada Department of Corrections. Retrieved on September 5, 2010.
  39. ^ "Lone woman on Nevada's death row dies in prison ." Associated Press at North County Times. January 31, 2005. Retrieved on September 5, 2010.
  40. ^ a b "Death Row and Death Watch." North Carolina Department of Correction. Retrieved on September 1, 2010.
  41. ^ a b c d "CCI death row receives final inmates Archived 2015-07-14 at the Wayback Machine.." Chillicothe Gazette. Retrieved on February 2, 2012.
  42. ^ a b "Capital Punishment in Oregon." Oregon Department of Corrections. Retrieved on December 28, 2012.
  43. ^ a b "Death Penalty FAQ." Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. 2 (2/4). Retrieved on July 26, 2010.
  44. ^ "Death Row/Capital Punishment." South Carolina Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 17, 2010.
  45. ^ "Graham (Camille Griffin) Correctional Institution." South Carolina Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 17, 2010. "The institution also functions as a major special management unit with the ability to house female death row inmates and county safekeepers."
  46. ^ a b c "Death Row Facts." Tennessee Department of Correction. Retrieved on August 25, 2010.
  47. ^ "West Livingston CDP, Texas Archived June 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on May 9, 2010.
  48. ^ a b "Death Row Facts Archived August 6, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on August 15, 2010.
  49. ^ "Sussex I State Prison." Virginia Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 22, 2010.
  50. ^ "DOC Appoints New Warden at Sussex I State Prison." Virginia Department of Corrections. March 9, 2006. Retrieved on August 22, 2010.
  51. ^ "Virginia Death Row/Execution Facts." My FOX DC. Tuesday November 10, 2009. Retrieved on August 22, 2010.
  52. ^ "Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women (female institution)." Virginia Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 22, 2010.
  53. ^ a b "Capital Punishment in Washington State." Washington Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 26, 2010.

External links

  • Death Row Conditions: Death Penalty Worldwide Academic research database on the laws, practice, and statistics of capital punishment for every death penalty country in the world.
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