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Capital Punishment 1998

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M. EST                             BJS
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 12, 1999                                    202/307-0784              


     WASHINGTON, D.C.   Eighteen states executed 68 prisoners (66
men and 2 women) during 1998 6 fewer than the year before, the Justice
Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today.  As of
November 30, 1999, 19 states had executed 89 men a 31 percent increase
over last year's total executions.  This is the largest number of executions in a
single year since the 105 inmates put to death in 1951.
     Thirty-eight states and the federal government currently authorize
capital punishment.  Twelve states and the District of Columbia do not have
the death penalty.
     The prisoners executed during 1998 had been under a death sentence
an average of 10 years and 10 months, 3 months less than that for inmates
executed during 1997.
     The data are contained in a BJS bulletin on capital punishment that
also noted:
      --At the end of 1998, 37 states and the federal system held 3,452
prisoners on death row, which is 4 percent more than in 1997.
      --Forty-eight women were on death row last year, up from 35 in 1990.
      --On December 31, 1998, the youngest death row inmate was 18 years
old and the oldest was 83.  The average age was 38 years old.
      --The average time inmates had spent under sentence of death on
December 31, 1998, was 7.4 years.
      --Of the 6,089 people sentenced to death between 1977 and 1998, 8
percent were executed, 3 percent died from causes other than execution (e.g.,
natural causes, murdered or committed suicide) and 32 percent received other
dispositions, such as a vacated sentence, a sentence reduction or a new trial.
      --Kansas and New York reported inmates sentenced to death in 1998
for the first time since the death penalty was reinstated (in 1994 and 1995,
      --As of  the end of 1998 , the execution of prisoners 16 years old or
younger was permissible in a dozen states.  Eight states did not specify a
minimum age for which the death penalty could be imposed.  
      --Thirty-four of the 38 capital punishment states use lethal injection. 
Electrocution is the   sole execution method in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and
     -- Many states provide for several means of execution.  Delaware, New
Hampshire and the state of Washington permit hanging as a method of
execution.  Idaho, Oklahoma and Utah authorize firing squads.
     -- Thirteen of the 38 states reported changes in capital punishment
statutes in 1998.  New York had a portion of its death penalty law overturned.
The bulletin, "Capital Punishment 1998" (NCJ-179012), was written by BJS
statistician Tracy L. Snell.  Single copies may be obtained from the BJS
fax-on-demand system by dialing 301/519-5550, listening to the complete menu
and  selecting document number 180.  Or call the BJS clearinghouse number:
1-800-732-3277.  Fax orders for mail delivery to 410/792-4358.  The BJS
Internet site is:
Additional criminal justice materials can be obtained from the Office
of Justice Programs homepage at:

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After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354
Date Published: December 12, 1999