A spreadsheet. That’s what the you get when you look up death row inmates in Texas, and it’s been that way since the late nineties. That’s all about to change – though not officially. The Texas Tribune’s new project, Faces of Death Row, puts a face with those death penalty statistics for all 261 inmates. The tool makes it easier to evaluate stats like an inmate’s age, sex, race and the number of years they’ve spent on death row. Terri Langford reports on criminal justice issues for the Texas Tribune, and she helped with the tool with open request records and more.
The inspiration for Faces of Death Row came from the tedious clicking involved in the finding out death row statistics. A new Texas Tribune staffer, Jolie McCullough, came from a different state and wanted to know more about death row inmates in Texas. So, they pulled up the spreadsheet from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. “Jolie looked at that and thought there was a better way. And, so, she talked to us and we put some record requests out and she did, too. And, we put this together.”
With the new tool, you can filter by age, sex, race and number of years on death row. For each of the 261 inmates, there’s a brief profile with statistics, the crime they committed and when and where it was committed. By filtering through the site, you can see that there are two men nearing 80 years old that are currently on death row. Each have been living on death row for over 20 years. You can also see that nearly half of all death row inmates have been on it for 15 years or more.
Thanks to Texas Tribune, navigating death row has never been easier. But, not everyone is happy about it
“Defense attorneys have some concerns that by us putting an easier tool that shows everyone on death row, it may wake up some sleepy prosecutor to revisit a case and put a faster date, or they’ll notice someone who doesn’t have a date.” Langford thinks that this is “irrelevant” and that prosecutors know what cases they are responsible for, whether or not the tool exists.