in Crime, Text Mining

Death Row Inmates: Last Words

Word clouds aren’t the best of data visualizations. They’re often too simplistic, representing a small sample of words out of context. I felt, however, that a word cloud would be appropriate to convey the most frequent terms present in the last statements of death row inmates.

That’s because the majority of these statements is typically comprised of few sentences, where the inmates say goodbye to their families. Many apologise to their victims, some protest their innocence until the end. A few simply state they’re now ready to die. There’s not much variety here, so representing the top terms proportionally to their frequency will not, I think, be an inaccurate representation.

The following word cloud was generated after stop word removal of 518 last statements of Texas death row inmates, executed between 1982 and 2014. These statements were harvested from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website. 

Here’s the top 15 words and their counts:

  • love: 634
  • family: 290
  • god: 203
  • life: 149
  • hope: 131
  • lord: 130
  • forgive: 127
  • people: 125
  • peace: 96
  • jesus: 96
  • give: 95
  • death: 92
  • pain: 81
  • strong: 81
  • warden: 77

It’s not at all suprising that “love”, “god” and “family” are at the very top. Here’s a sample of the most common bigrams and trigrams (ie, sets of two and three words):

  • “i love you”
  • “i would like”
  • “i am sorry”
  • “i am ready”
  • “i am going”
  • “thank you”
  • “my family”
  • “forgive me”
  • “stay strong”