Special Report

States With Most People on Death Row

Amy / Wikimedia Commons

More than 70% of countries around the world have effectively abolished the death penalty, including all but one European nation. The United States, however, is an outlier, particularly among developed, democratic countries, and across the country, there are more than 2,000 people on death row. 

Under the Biden administration, the federal government has had a standing moratorium on carrying out death sentences since July 1, 2021. This followed a period where executions at the federal level surged during the Trump administration.

State governments can form their own laws regarding capital punishment, and at the state level, death sentences and executions have become less common in recent years. Among the 27 states where the death penalty remains legal, its use is limited for those convicted of the most horrific crimes, such as a multiple homicide, murder of a police officer, or murder of a child. (Here is a look at the states where the most murders are committed with a gun.)

Using data from Death Row U.S.A. Spring 2022, a report by the Legal Defense Fund, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 27 states and two jurisdictions – the federal government and the military – with the most people on death row. Unless otherwise noted, death row populations are current as of April 1, 2022, and can include convicts awaiting a retrial, resentencing, or finalization of a court-ordered reversal. The federal government, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and California have a moratorium prohibiting executions.

It is important to note that Wyoming has a death penalty statute but no persons sentenced to death. It is therefore not listed. Meanwhile, New Hampshire, which repealed the death penalty for future crimes, still has a prisoner on death row for a crime committed before the repeal. New Hampshire is on the list.

Death sentences are typically handed down by a jury, and due in part to a lengthy appeals process and a shortage of lethal injection drugs, inmates often spend years or decades on death row before sentencing is carried out. 

A recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that opposition to capital punishment among Americans is often attributed to a belief that the death penalty is not applied in a racially neutral way. Indeed, in most of the highest ranking states on this list, Black inmates make up the largest share of the death row population. 

The vast majority of death row inmates in the United States are men, though there are also a few women on death row in some states. (Here is a look at the most brutal female criminals in history.)

Click here to see states with most people on death row.

Click here to see our detailed methodology.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

29. New Hampshire (repealed the death penalty)
> Number of prisoners on death row: 1
> Race of prisoner: Black: 1 (100%)
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 172 per 100,000 – 8th lowest of all states

New Hampshire became the 21st state to abolish capital punishment on May 30, 2019. Even before the new law came into effect, New Hampshire had not executed a prisoner in 80 years.

The end of the death penalty is not retroactive, however, and New Hampshire currently has one inmate on death row who was convicted of murdering a police officer. Exactly how or when he would be executed is unclear, as there has been no date set and the state has no execution chamber. Some experts speculate that the death row inmate’s sentence will be reduced.

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28. South Dakota
> Number of prisoners on death row: 1
> Race of prisoner: White: 1 (100%)
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 362 per 100,000 – 15th highest of all states

The death penalty has been instated in South Dakota continuously since 1979. Since the start of the 20th century, the state has executed 11 people, four of whom were executed since the beginning of 2012.

South Dakota’s sole death row inmate is an Alaska Native convicted of torturing and killing the resident of a home he burglarized while high on methamphetamine and LSD. In 2020, the convict appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court who refused to hear his case.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

27. Montana
> Number of prisoners on death row: 2
> Race of prisoners: White: 2 (100%)
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 362 per 100,000 – 15th highest of all states

Montana has killed 74 prisoners, most recently in 2006. In 1995, the state switched execution methods from hanging to lethal injection.

There are currently two death row inmates in Montana. One was convicted of kidnapping and murdering two Native American men who picked him up while hitchhiking. The other was already serving a 130-year sentence for murder when he beat a fellow inmate to death with a baseball bat in 1990 and sentenced to death for that murder. Not long after, he and seven other inmates took over a section of the prison in a riot that resulted in the deaths of five protective custody inmates.

26. Military
> Number of prisoners on death row: 4
> Race of prisoners: Black: 2 (50%); White: 2 (50%);
> Incarceration rate, 2020: N/A

Members of the U.S. military are subject to a separate set of laws than civilians, and as is the case in many states, the military may impose the death penalty in certain cases. There are currently four men on death row under military jurisdiction in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Each has been convicted of multiple murders, often along with other crimes such as kidnapping and rape.

The most recent death sentence in the U.S. military was handed down in 2013 to the perpetrator of the 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, that left 13 dead.

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25. Utah
> Number of prisoners on death row: 7
> Race of prisoners: Black: 1 (14%); White: 4 (57%); Latino/a: 1 (14%); Native: 1 (14%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 166 per 100,000 – 7th lowest of all states

There are currently seven men on death row in Utah. All have been living with their sentence for decades, including three who were sentenced in the 1980s. Each has delayed his execution through the appeals process.

Utah has executed a total of 50 people and is the only state to execute inmates by firing squad in the modern era. The last execution in the state was carried out by firing squad in 2010. Two of the state’s current death row inmates are slated to die by firing squad.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

24. Indiana
> Number of prisoners on death row: 8
> Race of prisoners: Black: 2 (25%); White: 6 (75%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 351 per 100,000 – 19th highest of all states

There are eight men on death row in Indiana, all at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City. The eight men were each convicted of murder – some of multiple murders. The victims include children and a police officer.

A total of 151 executions have been carried out in Indiana’s history. The state moved away from hangings and electrocution in 1995 to lethal injection primarily. A shortage of execution drugs has delayed the carrying out of sentences for the current death row inmates. The length of time spent on death row among them ranges from about eight to 29 years.

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23. Idaho
> Number of prisoners on death row: 8
> Race of prisoners: White: 8 (100%)
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 398 per 100,000 – 9th highest of all states

Seven men and one woman are currently on death row in Idaho. One of the men was initially scheduled for execution on June 2, 2021, but the execution was deferred due to a clemency hearing. Due to his poor health, the state’s Commission of Pardons and Parole voted to reduce his sentence. However, Gov. Brad Little rejected the commission’s recommendation and the inmate has now been on death row for over three and a half decades.

Idaho has carried out 29 executions in its history, most recently in 2012. Executions in the state are carried out through lethal injection, and as of last year, the state did not have the necessary drugs to carry out sentences.

22. Kansas
> Number of prisoners on death row: 9
> Race of prisoners: Black: 3 (33%); White: 6 (67%)
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 298 per 100,000 – 23rd lowest of all states

Though capital punishment is legal in Kansas, the state has not executed a prisoner since 1965. Kansas does not have a separate death row, and prisoners who are sentenced to death in the state are typically held in the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Butler County.

There are currently nine inmates – all men – in the state who have been sentenced to death. The most recent death row inmate was sentenced in 2016, and the two inmates who have been on death row longest in the state were sentenced in 2002.

Source: kodda / iStock via Getty Images

21. Nebraska
> Number of prisoners on death row: 11
> Race of prisoners: Black: 2 (18%); White: 3 (27%); Latino/a: 6 (55%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 269 per 100,000 – 20th lowest of all states

There are 11 men on death row in Nebraska. Earlier this year, a 12th man was on death row who was originally sentenced to life in prison for murder and later sentenced to death after strangling his cell mate to death in 2017. However, he took his own life while in custody in August 2022.

Lawmakers in Nebraska have introduced bills to abolish the state’s death penalty in every legislative session since 1981. Still, the state’s death penalty stands – despite a lack of the lethal injection drugs necessary to carry out the sentence, as manufacturers are refusing to supply them.

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20. Missouri
> Number of prisoners on death row: 20
> Race of prisoners: Black: 6 (30%); White: 14 (70 %);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 374 per 100,000 – 12th highest of all states

Well over 300 people have been executed in Missouri’s history, including 51 men in the 21st century. The state primarily uses lethal injection and gas chambers to carry out executions.

There are currently 20 men on death row in the state, including one who is scheduled to be killed by lethal injection on Nov. 29, 2022, for the 2005 murder of a St. Louis police officer. In the state’s history, four people have been freed from death row after being exonerated.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

19. Oregon
> Number of prisoners on death row: 21
> Race of prisoners: Black: 2 (9%); White: 15 (68%); Latino/a: 3 (14%); Native: 1 (5%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 300 per 100,000 – 24th lowest of all states

For over a decade, Oregon has had a moratorium on carrying out death sentences, imposed by two consecutive state governors. As of April 1, 2022, there were 21 people on death row in Oregon.

In its history, Oregon has executed 124 people, though only two of those executions were carried out since 1976. Whether or not Oregon lifts its moratorium on executions will be up to the next governor. As of this writing, the November 2022 state gubernatorial race has not been called.

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18. Kentucky
> Number of prisoners on death row: 27
> Race of prisoners: Black: 3 (11%); White: 24 (89%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 414 per 100,000 – 8th highest of all states

As of April 1, 2022, there were 27 people on death row in Kentucky – 26 men and one woman. Notably, one of the men on death row in the state, convicted of stabbing his landlord to death in 1995, may have his sentence overturned. Kentucky in 1998 adopted the Racial Justice Act, which gives judges leeway to consider the impact racial bias may have played in convictions when handing out sentences. Currently, three death row inmates in Kentucky are Black.

In its history, Kentucky has executed 427 people, though only three executions have been carried out in the state since the mid-1970s, the most recent of which was in 2008.

17. Arkansas
> Number of prisoners on death row: 29
> Race of prisoners: Black: 14 (48%); White: 14 (48%); Latino/a: 1 (3%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 529 per 100,000 – 4th highest of all states

There were 29 people on death row in Arkansas as of April 1, 2022, including three inmates who may have their sentencing reversed. One of them is a man convicted who was sentenced to death in 2016 for killing his 6-year-old son. However, the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned that conviction in 2019 and the inmate is awaiting a new trial scheduled to begin in early 2023.

In Arkansas’ history, over 500 people have been executed by the state, and one person sentenced to death was later found not guilty and freed. In 1992, then presidential candidate and governor of Arkansas Bill Clinton briefly left the campaign trail to oversee the execution of an intellectually disabled man who was found guilty of multiple homicides.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

16. Mississippi
> Number of prisoners on death row: 36
> Race of prisoners: Black: 21 (58%); White: 13 (36%); Latino/a: 1 (3%); Asian: 1 (3%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 584 per 100,000 – the highest of all states

There are 35 men and one woman on death row in Mississippi. In the state’s history, seven people sentenced to death were ultimately found not guilty prior to the carrying out of their sentence. They include a mother convicted of murdering her child, when in fact, the bruises on the child initially seen as proof of child abuse were the result of her attempts to resusitate the child.

As recently as May 2022, there was a 37th inmate on Mississippi’s death row, but the state converted his sentence to life in prison with no opportunity for parole.

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

15. South Carolina
> Number of prisoners on death row: 37
> Race of prisoners: Black: 19 (51%); White: 17 (46%); Latino/a: 1 (3%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 304 per 100,000 – 25th lowest of all states

There are 37 individuals who were sentenced to death in South Carolina. Under state law, a convicted criminal is eligible for the death penalty in a number of cases, including murder via poison, dismemberment of a murder victim, the murder of a child, or murder that is committed in addition to any number of other criminal offenses, such as drug trafficking, torture, kidnapping, or sexual misconduct.

In September 2022, a South Carolina Court ruled that carrying out executions with an electric chair – as opposed to lethal injection – was unconstitutional as it violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual corporal punishment. The last time an inmate was executed in the state by the electric chair was in 2008.

14. Georgia
> Number of prisoners on death row: 41
> Race of prisoners: Black: 22 (54%); White: 16 (39%); Latino/a: 3 (7%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 433 per 100,000 – 7th highest of all states

There were 41 people on death row in Georgia in April 2022. One of the men was scheduled to be executed in May 2022 for the 1976 abduction and murder of two girls walking home from school. However, the day before his execution was to be carried out, a judge halted the execution and a new date has yet to be set.

More than 1,000 inmates have been executed in Georgia, including 77 since 1976. Lethal injection serves as the means of execution in the state after a 2001 Georgia Supreme Court ruling found the electric chair to be in violation of the state constitution under the grounds that it is cruel and unusual punishment.

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13. Oklahoma
> Number of prisoners on death row: 42
> Race of prisoners: Black: 17 (40%); White: 20 (48%); Latino/a: 3 (7%); Native: 2 (5%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 559 per 100,000 – 3rd highest of all states

Unlike many states on this list that have gone years since their last execution, Oklahoma has executed six inmates in the last 12 months. The latest execution was carried out on Oct. 20, 2022. Two more executions are scheduled for 2022 and another 10 for 2023.

Though there were 42 death row inmates in the state as of April 1, 2022, with executions ongoing, that number has since changed. More executions have been carried out in Oklahoma County – home to Oklahoma City – in the last 50 years than in any other county outside of Texas. Many of those executed in the state had some sort of intellectual, mental, or developmental impairments, according to Death Penalty Information Center. Several of the inmates on death row also have mental illness or brain damage, according to the organization.

Source: drnadig / E+ via Getty Images

12. U.S. federal government
> Number of prisoners on death row: 44
> Race of prisoners: Black: 17 (39%); White: 19 (43%); Latino/a: 7 (16%); Asian: 1 (2%);
> Incarceration rate, 2020: 358 per 100,000

The federal government has had a moratorium on carrying out executions imposed by Attorney General Merrick Garland on July 1, 2021. While no federal death sentence will be carried out as long as the moratorium stands, there were 44 death row inmates under federal jurisdiction as of April 1, 2022. According to Death Penalty Information Center, only one federal death row prisoner has a sentence related to terrorism. The rest were already serving sentences for their crimes at the state level, but circumstances allowed for federal prosecution as well (such as a vehicle used in a carjacking once shipped through interstate commerce).

Federal death row prisoners are typically housed at the Special Confinement Unit at the U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute in Indiana. Each federal death sentence must be authorized by the Department of Justice in consultation with the U.S. Attorney Offices.

In the final months of the Trump administration, there was a surge in federal executions. From July 2020 through January 2021, the U.S. government executed 13 prisoners. The last time the federal government carried out a death sentence before Trump’s presidency was in 2003.

Source: txking / iStock via Getty Images

11. Tennessee
> Number of prisoners on death row: 47
> Race of prisoners: Black: 23 (49%); White: 22 (47%); Asian: 2 (4%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 328 per 100,000 – 22nd highest of all states

There are currently 46 men and one woman on death row in Tennessee. The state’s oldest death row inmate is 72-years-old and was sentenced in 1990. The youngest person on death row is 33 and was sentenced in 2018.

Due to breaches of protocol, the state has put a hold on executions for an indefinite amount of time. The hold has been in place since Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee issued a reprieve to an inmate facing an imminent execution in April 2022. Since then, an independent investigation found multiple instances of noncompliance regarding executions in the state related to lethal injection drugs, including faulty testing procedures and improper storage and handling.

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10. Louisiana
> Number of prisoners on death row: 62
> Race of prisoners: Black: 42 (68%); White: 17 (27%); Latino/a: 3 (5%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 581 per 100,000 – 2nd highest of all states

Louisiana is one of only 10 states with more than 60 people on death row. As of April 1, 2022, there were 61 men and one woman on death row in the state. Sentencing for the men is planned to be carried out at the Angola State Penitentiary, and the woman’s execution is to take place at the St. Gabriel Correctional Institute for Women. Until a 2008 Supreme Court decision overturned the law, offenders in Louisiana who had not committed murder were eligible for the death penalty in certain cases.

Notably, Louisiana has not carried out a death sentence since 2010. Over the last two decades, 11 prisoners have died awaiting their execution date. As is the case in much of the country where executions are carried out, the Louisiana justice system is up against a shortage of the drugs used in lethal injections, as pharmaceutical companies push back against their products being used for capital punishment.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

9. Nevada
> Number of prisoners on death row: 65
> Race of prisoners: Black: 23 (35%); White: 31 (48%); Latino/a: 9 (14%); Asian: 2 (3%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 361 per 100,000 – 17th highest of all states

Nevada became the first state to use the gas chamber to execute death row inmates in 1924. However, since 1979, all executions in the state have been carried out through lethal injection. Currently, the sentences of the 65 men on death row in Nevada are expected to be carried out in Ely State Prison.

The state of Nevada has not executed a prisoner since 2006. Earlier this year, an execution was put on hold as the drugs that were to be used for the lethal injection were set to expire before a formal death warrant could be issued. Those drugs include a combination of ketamine, fentanyl, and either potassium chloride or potassium acetate.

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8. Arizona
> Number of prisoners on death row: 116
> Race of prisoners: Black: 18 (16%); White: 69 (59%); Latino/a: 22 (19%); Native: 4 (3%); Asian: 3 (3%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 495 per 100,000 – 5th highest of all states

Arizona is one of only eight states with more than 100 people on death row. As of April 1, 2022, there were 116 inmates with a death sentence in the state – though that number has since changed. After nearly eight years with no executions, Arizona executed two inmates in 2022 and has a third execution scheduled for Nov. 16, 2022.

Three death row prisoners in the state are women, for whom sentencing will be carried out at the Arizona Department of Corrections Perryville. The remaining male prisoners who have received a death sentence are to be executed at the Florence Arizona State Prison Complex. Death sentences in the state are carried out by lethal injection, and amid the national drug shortage of execution drugs, Arizona was caught by FDA officials in 2015 attempting to import illegal lethal injection drugs from India. Death row inmates in the state who were convicted before November 1992 also have the choice of the gas chamber.

7. Pennsylvania
> Number of prisoners on death row: 128
> Race of prisoners: Black: 65 (51%); White: 49 (38%); Latino/a: 12 (9%); Asian: 2 (2%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 308 per 100,000 – 25th highest of all states

There were 128 people on death row in Pennsylvania as of April 1, 2022, more than in all but six other states. Still, only three executions have been carried out in Pennsylvania since 1976, and in 2015, Gov. Tom Wolf placed a moratorium on executions, citing concerns of the potential innocence of inmates and racial bias in prosecution and sentencing. Currently, a little over half of all death row inmates in Pennsylvania are Black. Black Americans comprise just 12% of the state population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Despite the moratorium, courts in the state can still issue death sentences. Crimes that legally warrant a death sentence in Pennsylvania include the killing of a minor under age 12, killing a police officer, and killing a woman in her third trimester of pregnancy.

6. Ohio
> Number of prisoners on death row: 134
> Race of prisoners: Black: 74 (55%); White: 56 (42%); Latino/a: 3 (2%); Asian: 1 (.7%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 385 per 100,000 – 11th highest of all states

Ohio is the only state in the Midwest with more than 100 people on death row. As of April 1, 2022, there were 134 people on death row in the state. Though there were executions scheduled in Ohio in recent months, they have been postponed due to a limited supply of lethal injection drugs. The last execution in Ohio was carried out in July 2018. Currently, 30 executions are scheduled in Ohio from 2023 through 2026.

All but one death row inmate in Ohio are men, and their executions will be held in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. Female death row inmates in the state are executed in the Marysville Ohio Reformatory for Women.

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Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

5. North Carolina
> Number of prisoners on death row: 138
> Race of prisoners: Black: 73 (53%); White: 54 (39%); Latino/a: 4 (3%); Native: 6 (4%); Asian: 1 (.7%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 271 per 100,000 – 21st lowest of all states

There were 138 people on death row in North Carolina as of April 1, 2022. Some 827 people have been executed in the state’s history, though 16 years have passed since the last death sentence was carried out. The state has also released 12 convicts who were sentenced to death but were later found to be not guilty.

All but two death row inmates in North Carolina are men, and their executions will be held in the Raleigh Central Prison. Female death row inmates in the state are executed in the North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women, also in Raleigh.

4. Alabama
> Number of prisoners on death row: 166
> Race of prisoners: Black: 80 (48%); White: 84 (51%); Latino/a: 2 (1%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 398 per 100,000 – 9th highest of all states

There are 166 inmates sitting on death row in Alabama, more than in all but three other states and the most per capita in the country. Alabama also has a high error rate, with an average of one exoneration for every eight executions. The heavy use of the death penalty in Alabama is partially attributable to the state being the last one to abolish a law allowing judges to choose the death penalty even if a jury decides on life in prison. A total of 778 people have been executed in the state’s history.

The vast majority of death row inmates are men housed in Holman Prison, though there are also five women in Tutwiler Prison. Today, lethal injection is the primary method of execution in the state, though death row inmates convicted prior to 2002 can opt for the electric chair.

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3. Texas
> Number of prisoners on death row: 199
> Race of prisoners: Black: 90 (45%); White: 53 (27%); Latino/a: 52 (26%); Asian: 4 (2%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 455 per 100,000 – 6th highest of all states

There were 199 death row prisoners in Texas as of April 1, 2022. The state has executed three people so far this year, not including two executions scheduled for November 2022. So far, there are six executions scheduled for 2023.

Over 900 executions have been carried out in the state’s history, and all of the five U.S. counties that have conducted the most executions in the last 50 years are located in Texas. In Harris County alone, where Houston is located, there have been 127 executions since 1982. The state is infamous for executions, partially because until 2005, the sentence of life in prison without parole was not an option for juries. Texas was also the first state in the country to carry out a death sentence with a lethal injection.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

2. Florida
> Number of prisoners on death row: 323
> Race of prisoners: Black: 123 (38%); White: 179 (55%); Latino/a: 19 (6%); Native: 1 (.3%); Asian: 1 (.3%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 371 per 100,000 – 13th highest of all states

Florida had 323 people on death row as of April 1, 2022, the second most of any state. Until 2016, judges in Florida could override a jury’s decision and sentence a convict to death. Since 2017, juries must be in unanimous agreement for a convict to be sentenced to death.

In the years since 1973, a total of 30 death row inmates have been exonerated due to a wrongful conviction, the most of any state – a rate of about one innocent person for every three people executed.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

1. California
> Number of prisoners on death row: 690
> Race of prisoners: Black: 244 (35%); White: 226 (33%); Latino/a: 183 (26%); Native: 9 (1%); Asian: 28 (4%);
> State incarceration rate, 2020: 247 per 100,000 – 16th lowest of all states

California has far and away the largest death row population in the country. A total of 690 people were on death row in the state as of April 1, 2022, more than double the number in Florida, the state with the second largest death row population.

In 2019, however, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans to dismantle the state’s death row. In the announcement, Newsom said, “The prospect of your ending up on death row has more to do with your wealth and race than it does your guilt or innocence.” Currently, the largest share of inmates on death row in the state are Black.

Due to the moratorium, male death row inmates will be relocated from San Quentin to other maximum security facilities. Women from Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla will be given the option of less restrictive housing and join rehabilitation and work programs.

Methodology

To find the states and jurisdictions with the most people on death row, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed Death Row U.S.A. Spring 2022, a report by the Legal Defense Fund. We ranked the 27 states and two jurisdictions – the federal government and the military – with people on death row. Unless otherwise noted, the death row population in each state is current as of April 1, 2022. Jurisdictions are ordered by the number of people currently in prison on death row. We broke ties using the incarceration rate.

All data is from the report except for state incarceration rates as of 2020, which came from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics’s publication Prisoners in 2020 — Statistical Tables.

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