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Capital Punishment - Deterrence

death inmates row executed

Many studies attempted to determine the deterrent effect of the death penalty. No consensus emerged. Several indicated some deterrence while others concluded otherwise. However, many death penalty supporters focused more on the retributive nature of the punishment as justification for its use, rather than any deterrent effect.

With only 131 prisoners on death row in 1953, the number first topped 500 in the late 1960s and grew sharply after 1984. By 1998, 3,335 inmates were under a sentence of death. Whites comprised a slight majority of that number (1,876), and fewer than two percent were female. According to Amnesty International, at least 47 juveniles were on death row in 15 states in 1996 for murders committed at age 16 or 17. Despite the large number of inmates on death row, only 193 executions actually took place during the first half of the 1990s. However, the number of executions began to increase later in 1990s. A total of 76 inmates were executed in 1997, the most since 76 in 1955. Eighteen states executed 68 prisoners in 1998. Forty-eight of those executed were white, 18 were African American, and two women the first since 1984.

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