Illinois joins five other Midwestern states that ban death penalty

Stateline Midwest: Vol. 20, No. 4: April 2011

Last month, Illinois became the 16th state to abolish the death penalty when Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill passed by the legislature in January. A moratorium on executions had been in place since 2000, when Gov. George Ryan cleared Death Row amid concerns about wrongful convictions in the justice system, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Illinois joins five other Midwestern states that do not use the death penalty: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Michigan was the first Midwestern state to abolish the punishment (in 1846), and North Dakota had been the most recent state in this region to do so (in 1973).

Nationwide, the number of executions is at a near-historic low, falling by half in the last decade. The number of inmates given a death sentence has also decreased by roughly 50 percent, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. The total population of Death Row in the United States was about 3,200 last year.

In 2010, the Midwest accounted for eight of the 46 executions carried out that year, or 17 percent. All of them took place in Ohio. The vast majority of executions last year took place in the South (35), with three occurring in the West. States in the Northeast did not put any inmates to death last year.