Death Penalty

What’s going on?

A person can still be sentenced to death for a crime in around a third of all countries. From our work with prisoners facing the death penalty across the world, we know that their trials are often deeply flawed, abuse of human rights is widespread, and execution methods are barbaric.


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Since the 20th century, the international community gradually turned its back on capital punishment. The United States’ neighbors, Canada and Mexico, abolished it in 1976 and 2005 respectively – while the European Union says that “the death penalty is cruel and inhuman, and has not been shown in any way to act as a deterrent to crime.” 

Yet as of January 1, 2016, 2,943 inmates remain on America’s Death Rows. They are 43% white, 42% black, and 13% Latino. California has the largest death row – 743 inmates. Florida is next (396), then Texas (263), Alabama (196), and Pennsylvania (180) (NAACP Legal Defense Fund).

Elsewhere, countries such as China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to execute thousands of people every year, in cases involving torture and other human rights abuses, unfair judicial processes, and brutal killing practices.



What we do

  • Reprieve US wants to see an end to the death penalty in the United States and worldwide. 
  • In the United States, as a result of our Stop Lethal Injection Project (SLIP), the annual rate of executions in 2014 fell to its lowest in 20 years – with CBS News calling Maya Foa, head of the Reprieve UK Death Penalty team, “the woman behind the shortage of lethal injection drugs”.
  • We save lives. In providing legal assistance to people facing the death penalty or languishing on Death Row, we have prevented executions in all but six of our cases: a 98 percent success rate.
  • Right now, we work with more than 40 people facing execution in 11 countries, including Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Indonesia, UAE and the USA. Over the past twelve months, Reprieve staff have averted death sentences for 13 people.
  • Our caseworkers build relationships with the local lawyers of our clients, investigate cases, draft legal documents, and provide training on capital defense issues and best practice.
  • Reprieve’s Stop Aid for Executions project seeks to stop governments from providing financial counter-narcotics assistance to countries which hand down the death penalty for drug-related offenses.
  • We work with national and international media to publicize our clients’ cases and encourage public debate around the human rights issues they raise.



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Latest death penalty news:

Read more news on the death penalty here.