Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Twenty-five people were executed in the United States in 2018, a number that, while slightly higher than in 2017, reflects a decline of the death penalty over the past two decades.
The number of people executed was up by two from 2017 (23). There was a 26-year low of 20 executions in 2016, down from a peak of 98 in 1999 since the United States reinstated the death penalty in 1976. The fewest number of executions recorded since the reinstatement -- other than zero in 1976, 1978 and 1980 -- was one each in 1977 and 1981.
The figures were provided as part of an annual year-end report released by the Death Penalty Information Center on Friday. DPIC is an organization that tracks death sentences and executions throughout the United States and says it takes no stance on the death penalty.
The last execution of 2018 was carried out Thursday in Florida, that of Jose Antonio Jimenez.
In addition to the 25 executions in 2018, 14 states and the federal government handed down 42 death sentences as of Friday, up from 39 in 2017. This year saw the third-fewest number of death sentences issued in 33 years.
Four states -- California and Ohio (five each), and Florida and Texas (seven each) -- handed down 57 percent of all death sentences in 2018. DPIC said the death penalty continued to be geographically isolated to the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, accounting for 25 executions.
"America continued its long-term movement away from the death penalty in 2018," said Robert Dunham, DPIC's executive director. "Even in the face of inflammatory political rhetoric urging its expanded use, voters showed that the death penalty is no longer a political wedge issue.
"The re-election of governors who imposed death penalty moratoria, the replacement of hard-line pro-death penalty prosecutors with reformers, and Washington's court decision striking down its death penalty suggest that we will see even greater erosion of the death penalty in the years ahead."
DPIC cited a 2018 Gallup poll that found that 49 percent of Americans believe the death penalty is "applied fairly." Fifty-six percent of people were in favor of the death penalty in the same poll, down from a high of 80 percent in the mid-'90s.