Abolition State

Rhode Island executed 52 people during the years 1673-1845, but only 7 of those occurred after it was admitted as a state. Half of those were executions for piracy when 26 sailors were hanged on the same day in 1723.

Rhode Island abolished the death penalty for all crimes in 1852, becoming one of the first states to do so. The abolition lasted until 1873, when the General Assembly reinstated the death penalty for the crime of murder committed while serving a life sentence. In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s 1972 decision in Furman v. Georgia, Rhode Island rewrote its death penalty in 1973 to include a mandatory death sentence for murder committed while under confinement in a state penitentiary. However, the mandatory death sentence was declared unconstitutional by Rhode Island’s Supreme Court in 1979, and in 1984 the General Assembly removed the death penalty from the Rhode Island Penal Code. Several attempts have been made to reinstate the death penalty, although none have made much progress in the state legislature.

Rhode Island Fact Sheet

For more information and ways to get involved, contact your state's organizations:

Faithful Citizenship Rhode Island

Faithful Citizenship Rhode Island advocates for the Church’s public policy positions before the Rhode Island General Assembly and other civic officials. It represents the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence and the hundreds of thousands of Catholics who call Rhode Island home.

More Information at Death Penalty Center