What Is an Execution Chamber? (with pictures)

Marlene Garcia
Marlene Garcia
An electric chair in the former Louisiana State execution chamber.
An electric chair in the former Louisiana State execution chamber.

An execution chamber consists of a special room located inside prison walls where inmates who have been sentenced to death are killed. In regions where capital punishment is enforced, execution chambers, or death chambers, provide a place designed specifically for putting a person to death. Execution chambers might contain an electrified chair, lethal gas equipment, or a gurney for lethal injection. In areas that still use firing squads, the execution chamber typically includes a wooden chair for the inmate and portholes for rifles.

The witness room provides a view of the execution chamber behind the protection of a bulletproof window.
The witness room provides a view of the execution chamber behind the protection of a bulletproof window.

These rooms are commonly located in maximum security sections of prisons, sometimes called death row. A lethal gas execution chamber consists of an airtight room where the prisoner is strapped into a metal chair. Steel doors typically lead to a control room and chemical room where plumbing and gas generators are stored. A witness room allows a view of the execution chamber through bulletproof glass.

An execution chamber consists of a special room located inside prison walls where inmates who have been sentenced to death are killed.
An execution chamber consists of a special room located inside prison walls where inmates who have been sentenced to death are killed.

The design of the gas chamber remains similar to the first one constructed in the 1920s. After a prisoner enters the gas chamber, he or she is strapped into a metal chair with restraints fastened to the arms, legs, and head. A gas canister under the seat of the chair releases hydrogen cyanide gas that suffocates the person sentenced to die. Some areas no longer carry out capital punishment via gas, opting for lethal injection as a more humane method of death.

When executions were done by firing squads, sandbags would be put in the execution chamber to absorb stray bullets and prevent ricochet.
When executions were done by firing squads, sandbags would be put in the execution chamber to absorb stray bullets and prevent ricochet.

Execution chambers used for lethal injection are outfitted with a gurney where the prisoner is strapped down. Intravenous lines first deliver a saline solution before a mixture of three drugs begins flowing into the inmate’s veins. One drug renders the prisoner unconscious, while another produces paralysis, which halts breathing. The final chemical leads to cardiac arrest and death. Death by lethal injection is the most common form of capital punishment.

Electrocution is employed in execution chambers in some areas. These rooms generally contain a wooden chair bolted to a cement floor and sitting on a rubber mat. The prisoner is strapped to the chair at the chest and arms. An electrode is attached to the ankle, with another embedded in a head covering to circulate electricity throughout the body. The electric chair was the most popular form of execution between 1930 and 1980 in the United States.

Death by firing squad is the method of execution used in some regions, including China. The chamber used for firing squads commonly contains portholes where three to six gunmen take aim. The inmate is secured in a chair with a white piece of cloth affixed to his chest to provide a clear target. Sandbags inside the execution chamber absorb any stray bullets and prevent ricochet.

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    • An electric chair in the former Louisiana State execution chamber.
      An electric chair in the former Louisiana State execution chamber.
    • The witness room provides a view of the execution chamber behind the protection of a bulletproof window.
      The witness room provides a view of the execution chamber behind the protection of a bulletproof window.
    • An execution chamber consists of a special room located inside prison walls where inmates who have been sentenced to death are killed.
      An execution chamber consists of a special room located inside prison walls where inmates who have been sentenced to death are killed.
    • When executions were done by firing squads, sandbags would be put in the execution chamber to absorb stray bullets and prevent ricochet.
      When executions were done by firing squads, sandbags would be put in the execution chamber to absorb stray bullets and prevent ricochet.