Execution chamber

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An execution chamber, or death chamber, is a room or chamber in which capital punishment 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.

United States[edit]

The former State of Louisiana execution chamber at the Red Hat Cell Block in the Louisiana State Penitentiary in West Feliciana Parish. The electric chair is a replica of the original.

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 two of the states which allow capital punishment are equipped with a death chamber, but many states rarely put them to use. The exceptions are New Hampshire, which has no execution chamber (although one inmate remains on death row since the abolition of capital punishment in that state is not retroactive) and California, which has no execution chambers after the lethal injection room and gas chamber were removed in 2019. Kansas, Nevada, and Wyoming 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 states of New Jersey and New York formerly had lethal injection chambers which were never used while the death penalty remained legal.

The National Ethics Council of the American Institute of Architects ruled in 2019 that its members may continue to design execution chambers in jurisdictions where they are legal.[1][2]


United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute houses the federal government execution chamber
Huntsville Unit houses the Texas execution chamber; it is the most active execution chamber in the United States, with 528 executions between 1982 and 2015.[3]
Louisiana State Penitentiary houses the Louisiana execution chamber
Mississippi State Penitentiary houses the Mississippi execution chamber
Execution chamber
Federal Terre Haute, Indiana (Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute)[4]
Military Terre Haute, Indiana (Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute)[5]
State Execution chamber
Alabama Escambia County (Holman Correctional Facility)[6]
Arizona Florence (Arizona State Prison Complex - Florence)[7]
Arkansas Lincoln County (Cummins Unit)[8]
California Marin County (San Quentin State Prison)[9]
Colorado[a] Fremont County (Colorado State Penitentiary)[10]
Connecticut[b] Somers (Osborn Correctional Institution)[11]
Delaware New Castle County (James T. Vaughn Correctional Center)[12]
Florida Bradford County (Florida State Prison)[13]
Georgia Butts County (Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison)[14]
Idaho Kuna (Idaho Maximum Security Institution)
Illinois[c] Tamms (Tamms Correctional Center)[15]
Indiana Michigan City (Indiana State Prison)
Kansas Lansing (Lansing Correctional Facility)
Kentucky Eddyville (Kentucky State Penitentiary)[16]
Louisiana West Feliciana Parish (Louisiana State Penitentiary)[17]
Maryland[d] Baltimore (Metropolitan Transition Center)[18]
Mississippi Sunflower County (Mississippi State Penitentiary)[19]
Missouri Bonne Terre (Eastern Reception, Diagnostic and Correctional Center)
Montana Powell County (Montana State Prison)
Nebraska Lincoln (Nebraska State Penitentiary)
Nevada White Pine County (Ely State Prison)[20]
New Hampshire[e] Concord (New Hampshire State Prison for Men)
New Jersey[f] Trenton (New Jersey State Prison)
New Mexico[g] Santa Fe County (Penitentiary of New Mexico)
New York[h] Beekman (Green Haven Correctional Facility)[i]
North Carolina Raleigh (Central Prison)[21]
Ohio Jefferson and Valley townships,[22][23] Scioto County (Southern Ohio Correctional Facility)[24]
Oklahoma McAlester (Oklahoma State Penitentiary)[25]
Oregon Salem (Oregon State Penitentiary)
Pennsylvania Benner Township[26][27] (State Correctional Institution - Rockview)[28]
South Carolina Columbia (Broad River Correctional Institution)[29]
South Dakota Sioux Falls (South Dakota State Penitentiary)[30]
Tennessee Nashville (Riverbend Maximum Security Institution)[31]
Texas Huntsville (Huntsville Unit)[32]
Utah Salt Lake City (Utah State Correctional Facility)
Virginia[j] Greensville County (Greensville Correctional Center)[33][34]
Washington[k] Walla Walla (Washington State Penitentiary)[35]
Wyoming Rawlins (Wyoming State Penitentiary)[l]


a Death penalty abolished in 2020. All remaining inmate's death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by Gov. Jared Polis immediately upon abolition.

b Death penalty abolished in 2012. All remaining inmates death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 2015.

c Death penalty abolished in 2011. All condemned prisoners sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by Gov. Pat Quinn immediately upon abolition.

d Death penalty abolished in 2013. Remaining inmate's death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by Gov. Martin O'Malley in 2014.

e Death penalty abolished in 2019; one prisoner remains on death row under sentence of death.[36]

f Death penalty abolished in 2007.[37] All remaining inmate's death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by Gov. Jon Corzine immediately upon abolition.

g Death penalty abolished in 2009. All remaining inmates death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by the New Mexico Supreme Court in 2019.[38]

h Death penalty abolished in 2007. All remaining inmates death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by the New York Court of Appeals immediately upon abolition.

i Closed in 2008 under David Paterson's administration.[39]

j Death penalty abolished in 2021. All remaining inmates death sentences were automatically commuted to life imprisonment under the abolition statute.[40][41]

k Death penalty abolished in 2018. All remaining inmates death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment by the Washington Supreme Court immediately upon abolition.

l If an execution does occur, the state will use its parole board meeting room at the state prison.

United Kingdom[edit]

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 and used 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. A freestanding execution block was built at HMP Perth in 1965, but was never used. This was the last gallows to be constructed in the United Kingdom.

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 Justice Museum, having previously been at the HM Prison Service museum.


One of Japan's seven execution chambers is in the Tokyo Detention House

Japan has seven execution chambers, which are located at the Detention Houses in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Sendai and Sapporo. All executions in Japan are carried out by hanging. The execution chamber in Tokyo has a trap door. As the condemned is dropped, their body falls into a room below the execution chamber and the death is confirmed.[42] In the Tokyo facility, the actual chamber is preceded by a room with a shrine to Amida Nyorai (Amitābha), a Buddhist deity, to allow for prayers and consultation with a religious official. The execution room in Tokyo is separated into two sections, with a total area of 25 m2.[43]


In Canada, executions were usually carried out in the county/municipality jail where they were committed. Alberta had gallows for the entire province in Fort Saskatchewan and Lethbridge. British Columbia had their executions in Oakalla (Burnaby).

The Don Jail was for murders committed in The City of Toronto and County of York. The Ontario County Jail in Whitby which was used for murders committed to what is now Durham Region. Most hangings were carried out using temporary gallows built in the jail yard although a few jails had permanent indoor facilities.



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