It is difficult to read the news these days without seeing those scary two words: "death penalty." No matter who you are, it is important to know a few things about it because the United States is one of the top five countries in the world when it comes to legal executions.
Whether you are in favor of or against the death penalty, there are some important things to know about the enforcement of the death penalty in the United States.
Here are just a few key facts:
States that enforce the death penalty
There are currently 31 states that enforce the death penalty:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.
The death penalty versus life in prison
One thing most people don't know is executing a human being costs taxpayers almost twice the amount as sending a human being to prison for life. Given the cost and the irreversibility of capital punishment, U.S. courts are careful when issuing such a sentence, which helps explain the amount of executions decreasing in recent years.
On average, a death row prisoner waits between one and two decades before being sentenced and executed. Given the length of time that death row prisoners wait, a large percentage of them die from natural causes prior to being executed.
Death row and mental illness
In the United States, one of the major things courts take into account when determining whether to execute a capital defendant is mental illness. In a few states, a capital defendant is excused from receiving the death penalty if he or she is found to be significantly mentally impaired.
However you may feel about the death penalty, it is a prominent issue in our society today so it is smart to stay up-to-date on the relevant facts and how the U.S. court system treats capital defendants.