This bulletin presents characteristics of death row inmates in 1983, the nature of their sentences, and clarifications of law.
Data for the bulletin come from the 50 States and the District of Columbia. The Supreme Court upheld the appropriateness of informing the jury of the future implications of possible sentences, ruled on 'harmless errors' by judges in sentencing, and also upheld the admissibility of psychiatric evidence predicting future dangerousness, all in 1983. In 1983, the number of inmates on death row and the number of offenders receiving the death penalty both increased. Thirty-three of the 38 States with the death penalty had prisoners under sentence of death. The South held almost two-thirds of these prisoners. There were 500 black inmates, 13 women inmates, and 72 Hispanic inmates on death rows in 1983. The proportion of women and Hispanics rose, the latter mostly because of improved reporting on ethnic background. Death row inmates had a generally low educational level; only 34 percent were married. A total of 27 States imposed the death sentence during 1983, down from 28 in 1982. These newly sentenced inmates had a median age slightly below that of current death row inmates. In all, 21 States removed 113 persons from death row, mostly due to changes in sentences and/or convictions. Eleven States modified existing death penalty statutes, six relating to the method of execution. Fourteen States provided for more than one method of execution, usually lethal injection or an alternative at the election of the prisoner. Almost all death penalty statutes provide for an automatic review of all death sentences. Three graphs and four tables are provided.