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New Database Launch: Increasing Accessibility to Information about the Death Penalty Worldwide

We’re very pleased to announce that we have launched a new and improved version of our Death Penalty Worldwide Database, which tracks the law and practice of capital punishment in every country in the world that retains it. Our updated search platform makes it easier for policymakers, scholars, lawyers, and other advocates to access information about the death penalty around the world.

Information about the death penalty is often difficult to access. The sources for legislation and court decisions are often decentralized, unavailable online, and only offered in select languages. Information about death penalty practices is often inaccurate due to unreliable record-keeping, or concealed by states that consider it a state secret. Further, prisons place restrictions on visitation that often prevent researchers and advocates from monitoring prison conditions on death row, let alone asking prisoners questions directly about their experience of the criminal legal system. The lack of accessible information about the death penalty impedes advocacy and diminishes transparency about human rights violations.

The Center’s database gathers death penalty information into a centralized, accessible knowledge base  that can be searched by country, region, date, or issue. We work with partners around the world to gather up-to-date information about the laws and practices of capital punishment in each country that retains it. Our database provides detailed information about the death penalty in each country, including information about capital punishment legislation, execution figures, death row prisoners, international law commitments, and the national criminal justice process.  About a quarter of a  million people use the database each year, including policymakers, lawyers, judges, journalists, human rights advocates, and scholars from around the world.  

It is now easier for users to access the database.  

Users can now access the database either through our database landing  page, as they are used to doing, or by clicking on the world map on our website homepage.

Our new database research platform makes it easier to access global information about the death penalty.  

We have worked to improve the design of our user interface design to improve the ease with which users can access our advanced search  and analyze results. Users can choose whether to pull all the available information on a certain topic, to filter results from countries that meet their chosen criteria, or to combine both of those features in one search. 

The database is also now accessible to people with dyslexia who prefer to use specialized fonts.

The new advanced search is more intuitive  and it’s easier to navigate and interpret results.  

The new search is divided into three columns, making it easier for users to select filters and topics, conceptualize their research question, and change their criteria. The far-left column lists all topics in the database, divided by category into eight collapsible menus.

When users click on a topic, more detailed information about that topic appears in the middle column, where users can select the information they want to search for and the filters they want to apply. For example, users can either filter their results so that their results show only countries that have implemented a moratorium on the death penalty, or run a keyword search to pull up all of the descriptions of appellate processes with the keyword “military.” Users can also simply search for all of the available information about a topic, such as prison conditions, for all the countries in the database. As users select topics to search for or filters to apply, their selections appear in the far-right “Search Query” column so they can track their search.

The results page returns the countries and information that fit the search query.  Users can filter their results by topic or country and can view the source of information by clicking on the citation superscripts.

Information accessibility is critical to support concrete positive change to the use of capital punishment around the world.  

Information about states’ use of the death penalty is complex, decentralized, and often concealed.  The Center database aims to make this data available to everyone, without requiring extensive experience in navigating databases. By collating information on how states are using the death penalty and tracking compliance with international human rights standards, the database illuminates the areas where new customary norms of international law may be emerging, and where further advocacy efforts are necessary. As always, we strive to support the efforts of advocates, judges, journalists, and policy-makers whose work will contribute to ending capital punishment.

Access our new database here.