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The incredible decline of America's death penalty, in one chart

America is slowly, but surely, quitting the death penalty.

In 2015, the use of the death penalty fell to a low point, according to a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center. There were fewer executions than at any point since 1991, and the fewest death sentences imposed since 1973.

Twenty-eight people were executed in 2015, down from a peak of 98 in 1999. The number of death sentences similarly fell to 49, down from 315 in 1996. And for the first time since 1995, the death row population across the country dropped below 3,000, according to the report.

The report also found that the death penalty is increasingly geographically isolated. Only six states carried out executions in 2015, with 86 percent of executions occurring in three states: Texas, Missouri, and Georgia. And nearly two-thirds of death sentences came from just 2 percent of counties — the 62 (of 3,143) counties from which more than half of the US's executions came from between 1976 and 2013.

In 2015, six former death row inmates were also exonerated. Collectively, the report found these people spent more than a century on death row, and an average of 19 years in prison as a result of their wrongful convictions.

So why is the death penalty on the decline? The past year was particularly tough for the death penalty, with a nationwide shortage of lethal injection drugs, a Supreme Court case over the legality of experimental lethal injection drugs, and greater caution in general toward the death penalty after several botched executions in 2014.

For a deeper dive, check out Vox's explainer on the death penalty's decline in America:


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