In the United States, the death penalty is primarily reserved for people who have been convicted of murder or other capital offenses. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that capital punishment is neither unconstitutional nor “cruel and unusual punishment,” and exists within the boundaries of the 8th and 14th amendments. There are some instances in which capital punishment has been approved for individuals who have raped or sexually assaulted minors in some way. Only a few states support this law, and each one has various limitations that dictate whether or not the crime will warrant the death penalty, such as the age of the child, whether or not the act was the perpetrator’s first conviction, or whether or not the victim received “serious bodily injury.”
Far earlier in the history of this country, capital punishment was used for a wider variety of crimes. Crimes such as arson, rape, robbery, and counterfeiting also resulted in this ultimate penalty. Many crimes which are no longer prevalent today, such as horse theft, piracy, and slave rebellions, could have also warranted death. Around the time of the American Revolution, authorities greatly revised capital punishment policy and officially prohibited the death penalty for lesser crimes.
Over the years, the number of crimes punishable by death has greatly diminished. Many states have prohibited it completely, and others only utilize it for a limited number of criminal activities. In most countries, capital punishment has become far more regulated to ensure that innocent victims are not put to death, and that those who are given a death sentence will not be treated with cruelty.
There are currently more than 3,000 inmates in the United States on death row. Various humanitarian groups work towards creating the most humane conditions for these prisoners, and towards abolishing capital punishment entirely.