An execution chamber, or death chamber, is a room or chamber in which a legal execution is carried out. Execution chambers are almost always inside the walls of a maximum-security prison, although not always at the same prison where the death row population is housed. Inside the chamber is the device used to carry out the death sentence.
In the United States, an execution chamber will usually contain a lethal injection table. In most cases, a witness room is located adjacent to an execution chamber, where witnesses may watch the execution through glass windows. All except for one of the states which allow capital punishment are equipped with a death chamber, but many states rarely put them to use. The sole exception is New Hampshire, who has not had an inmate on death row since the 1940s. Kansas, Nebraska and California are the only states to have an execution chamber, which is equipped to execute an inmate by lethal injection, which has never been used, while the State of New York had its execution chamber closed under the David Paterson administration, following the 2004 New York Court of Appeals decision in People v. LaValle, which ruled the state's death penalty statute unconstitutional.
Locations of execution chambers in the United States
|Federal||Terre Haute, Indiana (Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute)|
|Military||Terre Haute, Indiana (Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute)|
a Death penalty abolished in 2009; two prisoners remain on death row under sentences of death.
b Last death sentence reversed in 2007.
d If an execution does occur, the state will use its parole board meeting room at the state prison.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2010)|
In the United Kingdom, the execution chamber was part of a larger complex, often referred to as the "Execution Suite". The room, usually formed from two single prison cells, contained the large trapdoor, usually double-leaved, but in some older chambers such as at Oxford, single-leaved, and operating lever. The wooden beam from which the rope was suspended was usually set into the walls of the chamber above, with the floor removed. At Wandsworth Prison the floor was retained and holes allowed the rope and chains through. Oxford's chamber was of an old 19th century type, and the beam was set into the walls of the chamber just above head height.
Such rooms were almost always built into one of the wings of a prison; following the recommendation of prison governors during the 1948 Royal Commission on capital punishment, further execution chambers were housed in purpose-built blocks, separate from the main prison. The last gallows to be constructed in Britain, at HMP Aberdeen, was built in 1962, and was used one year later for the hanging of Henry John Burnett, the last person to be executed in Scotland.
The last officially operational gallows in the United Kingdom (as several remained unofficially in other prisons), at Wandsworth Prison, was removed in 1994. Salvaged parts from it are currently in the possession of the National Galleries of Justice, having previously been at the HM Prison Service museum.
Japan has seven execution chambers used to kill condemned criminals. One is at the Tokyo Detention House. Hanging is Japan's method of execution. The execution chamber in Tokyo has a trap door. As the condemned dies, his or her body falls into a room below the execution chamber, and in that room the death is confirmed. In the Tokyo facility, before the condemned is executed, he or she passes a statue of Amida Nyorai (Amitābha), a Buddhist deity. The execution room in Tokyo is in two sections, with both of them together the size of a 15 tatami mat room (270 square feet or 25 m²).
Execution chamber at San Quentin State Prison
Execution (Lethal Injection) Chambers
- New Jersey
- South Carolina
- New Hampshire
- New York
- North Carolina
- South Dakota
- New Mexico
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- "State Capitol Week in Review." State of Arkansas. June 13, 2008. Retrieved on August 15, 2010. "Executions are carried out in the Cummins Unit, which is adjacent to Varner."
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- "Frequently Asked Questions Victim Survivors Viewing Executions." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on August 15, 2010. "Executions in Texas normally take place around 6:00 p.m. at the Huntsville Unit in downtown Huntsville, Texas."
- "Virginia Death Row/Execution Facts." My FOX DC. Tuesday November 10, 2009. Retrieved on August 22, 2010.
- "Greensville Correctional Center/Greensville Work Center (major male institution)." Virginia Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 22, 2010.
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- "Diet members tour execution chamber." The Japan Times. Thursday July 24, 2003. Retrieved on August 27, 2010.