State Correctional Institution – Rockview

Coordinates: 40°51′03″N 77°46′40″W / 40.8507°N 77.7777°W / 40.8507; -77.7777
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State Correctional Institution – Rockview
LocationBenner Township, Centre County, Pennsylvania, USA
Managed byPennsylvania Department of Corrections
SCI Rockview -- SCI Benner Township can be seen in the background
SCI Rockview overhead view

The State Correctional Institution – Rockview (SCI Rockview) is a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections prison located in Benner Township, Pennsylvania, 5 miles (8.0 km) away from Bellefonte.[1][2] A portion of the prison grounds extends into College Township.[3]

SCI Rockview, which began construction in 1912 and was completed in 1915, was intended to replace Eastern State Penitentiary and Western Penitentiary. Instead it became a branch prison of Western housing lesser security risk prisoners employed in the extensive farm program outside the gates. Rockview is now a medium-security institution for men.[2] Pennsylvania's execution chamber is located on the grounds of Rockview; however, there is no "death row" there. Condemned prisoners are transported to Rockview from death rows in maximum security prisons across the state several days before their scheduled execution.[4]

SCI – Benner Township was constructed adjacent to SCI Rockview in 2010.[5]


Construction of Rockview began in 1912, and the prison opened three years later in 1915. It was designed by architect John T. Windrim.[6] In 1913, the Pennsylvania State Legislature approved electrocution and the electric chair took the place of the gallows.

At that time, the Pennsylvania State Legislature selected the new Western Penitentiary in Centre County, now known as Rockview, as the location of the chair. Neither the chair nor the institution were ready for occupancy until 1915.[4]

Between 1915 and 1962, 348 men and two women died in Pennsylvania's electric chair. The first woman to die in the electric chair was Irene Crawford Schroeder aka Shrader February 23, 1931. In 1972, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision Commonwealth v. Bradley invalidated the administration of the death penalty. In 1974, Pennsylvania drafted new capital punishment legislation, but it was once again invalidated in 1977. The next year, yet again, new capital punishment legislation was drafted and signed into law.

On November 29, 1990, amidst debate over whether electrocution was cruel and unusual punishment, the Pennsylvania State Legislature barred further such executions and lethal injection was approved.

The film On The Yard (1978) was filmed entirely at this prison and used actual inmates as extras in the film. It stars John Heard, Thomas Waites, and Mike Kellin.

Execution chamber[edit]

Since June 1997, the state execution chamber has been located in a two-story former field hospital located on the prison grounds outside of the perimeter of the main Rockview SCI facility. The hospital was renovated into a maximum security building that houses the execution chamber and a holding area for death row inmates. This allows officials to prepare for and implement an execution without disrupting the operations of the main Rockview facility. In addition, witnesses do not have to enter the main facility to view an execution. The renovated building gained three cells with cell furniture, floor covering, telephones, an electronic monitoring system, and locking mechanisms. Materials transferred from the previous location include the bullet-proof glass room divider, the tables, and the chairs. The first floor houses the death chamber, while the second floor contains offices for other prison-related operations. It is nicknamed the "Death House".[7]

Only three people, all of whom waived their appeals, have been executed in Pennsylvania since the resumption of capital punishment in 1976. All three executions took place at Rockview. The first was Keith Zettlemoyer in May 1995, followed by Leon Moser in August 1995, and then Gary M. Heidnik in July 1999.[8]

Notable prisoners[edit]

Inmate Name Register Number Status Details
Juan Covington GN5163 Serving a life sentence. Murdered 3 people.[9][10][11]
Rockne Warren Newell MA6444 Serving a life sentence.[12] Perpetrator of the 2013 Ross Township Municipal Building shooting.[13][14][15][16]
Antonio Rodriguez KR3631 Serving 4 life sentences.[17] Also known as the "Kensington Strangler" who convicted of raping and murdering 3 women in 2010.[18][19][20][21][22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2020 CENSUS - CENSUS BLOCK MAP: Benner township, PA" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. p. 2 (PDF p. 3/3). Retrieved 2022-09-01. State Correctional Institution Rockview
    See also: "Benner Township Zoning Map." Zoning Ordinance Archived 2011-07-25 at the Wayback Machine. Benner Township, March 2009. Retrieved on July 26, 2010
  2. ^ a b "Pennsylvania Department of Corrections: SCI Rockview". Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
  3. ^ "2020 CENSUS - CENSUS BLOCK MAP: College township, PA" (PDF). U.S. Census Bureau. p. 2 (PDF p. 3/4). Retrieved 2022-09-01. State Correctional Institution Rockview
  4. ^ a b "Pennsylvania Department of Corrections: History". Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Archived from the original on April 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
  5. ^ "SCI Benner Township". Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  6. ^ "CONTENTdm". Retrieved 2023-09-04.
  7. ^ "Death Penalty FAQ." Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. 2 (2/4). Retrieved on July 26, 2010.
  8. ^ "List of individuals executed by lethal injection (1995 to present)". Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  9. ^ "Arrest made in Pa. murder caught on tape". NBC News. 2005-07-14. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  10. ^ "Catching a Killer, With Help From a Camera". ABC News. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Inmate/Parolee Locator".
  13. ^ Williams, Timothy (2013-08-06). "Gunfire at Board Meeting Traced to Eviction Dispute". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2024-01-31.
  14. ^ Hall, Peter (2013-08-05). "Gunman kills 3 at Pennsylvania township meeting". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2024-01-31.
  15. ^ "Official hailed as 'true hero' after tackling gunman who allegedly killed 3 at township meeting". NBC News. 2013-08-07. Retrieved 2024-01-31.
  16. ^ "Accused Gunman Rockne Newell Pleads Guilty, Given Life Sentence". 2015-05-29. Retrieved 2024-01-31.
  17. ^ "Accused 'Kensington Strangler' Convicted of 3 Rape-Murders - CBS Philadelphia". 2012-08-16. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  18. ^ "Experts: Kensington Strangler Is Classified as 'Sexual Serial Killer'". ABC News. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  19. ^ "'Kensington Strangler' suspect Antonio Rodriguez: I had sex with victims after they were dead". New York Daily News. 2011-02-10. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  20. ^ "Police: Kensington Strangler suspect confesses to 4 murders". NBC News. 2011-01-18. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  21. ^ Black, Caroline (2011-01-19). ""Kensington Strangler" Suspect Confesses, Claims Murders "Just Happened," Say Phila. Police - CBS News". Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  22. ^ Stamm, Dan (2012-08-16). ""Kensington Strangler" Guilty of Murders, Rapes". NBC10 Philadelphia. Retrieved 2024-03-12.
  23. ^ "Leader Of Cult Is Arrested". The Daily News. Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. 19 Feb 1979. Retrieved 14 Apr 2019.

External links[edit]

40°51′03″N 77°46′40″W / 40.8507°N 77.7777°W / 40.8507; -77.7777