Attorney General William Barr announced Thursday that the Justice Department would reinstate the federal death penalty after a 16-year moratorium.

Barr also reportedly instructed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions of five death-row inmates convicted of murder. The inmates are set to be executed in December 2019 and January 2020.

“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the President,” Barr said in a statement.

“The Justice Department upholds the rule of law — and we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system,” he added.


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The most recent federal execution happened in 2003, when Louie Jones Jr. was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a 19-year-old female veteran.

According to the Washington-based nonprofit the Death Penalty Information Center, 62 inmates are now on federal death row. The organization also said the number of executions per year has dropped from 98 in 1999 to less than 24 today.

Capital punishment is an issue that has been discussed more frequently again in recent years, as states like California have moved to end the practice. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) abolished the death penalty in the state via executive order in March.

Twenty-one states have now banned the death penalty as the push for replacing capital punishment with life sentences in prison continues.

In 2016, public support for the death penalty dropped to a 20-year low at 49%, 31% less than in 1996. However, the Pew Research Center noted, that figure rose to 54% last year.

In some federal criminal cases, prosecutors continuing considering the death penalty option. Two notable examples are the case surrounding Dylann Roofa young white nationalist who killed nine black parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, and that involving Dzhokhar Tsarnaevone of the two perpetrators of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.


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