Photos: A Haunting Look at America’s Execution Chambers

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Robert James Campbell, a 41-year-old Texas inmate, was supposed to die Tuesday night in a small room at the Huntsville Unit of the Texas State Penitentiary. His would have been the first death by lethal injection since the botched execution of Oklahoma prisoner Clayton Lockett just two weeks ago. Instead, he was granted a last-minute stay on his execution based on new evidence that Campbell’s I.Q. was below 70, the baseline number frequently used to qualify someone for capital punishment.

His lawyers, though, initially petitioned on the grounds that Texas, like Oklahoma, does not disclose the source of the drugs used for lethal injections. A judge rejected that plea, citing previous court rulings. But even as he said his hands were tied, he wrote in his decision that the Oklahoma case “requires sober reflection on the manner in which this nation administers the ultimate punishment.” 

Those reflections may come in the ghostly, eerie images of America’s death chambers, collected from some of the 32 states where the death penalty is still legal. These rooms are empty more often than occupied. Built within prison walls, they are spare and cold and clinical. But what remains carries its own weight — a single gurney, a mirror, a clock hanging alone on a cinder block wall.

The photos in this collection are pieced together from photographers, wire services, and from prison archives. Most states rely on lethal injections as the only or primary mode of execution, but some still use or allow for other methods, including the electric chair and the gas chamber. Texas executes more prisoners than any other state, and is one of the few, including Oklahoma, Florida, and Missouri, that have executed prisoners this year. But even states that haven’t put anyone to death for decades tend to have a place for doing so. A few of the execution facilities below have been decommissioned, but the great majority remain officially active.

Photo: Florida Dept. of Corrections

Lethal Injection Gurney, Florida State Prison, Raiford, Florida, undated

Photo: Jessie L. Bonne/AP/Corbis

Execution Chamber, Idaho Maximum Security Institution, Boise, Idaho, 2011

Photo: Indiana Department of Corrections/AP

Execution Chamber, Indiana State Prison, Michigan City, Indiana, 1995

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Electric Chair, Greensville Correctional Facility, Jarratt, Virginia, 1991

Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP/Corbis

Execution Chamber with Witness Gallery (right), Washington State Penitentiary, Walla Walla, Washington, 2008

Washington’s governor announced this February that he is suspending the death penalty in the state. The moratorium does not commute the sentences of people currently on death row. There are nine. 

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Lethal Injection Chamber, Territorial Correctional Facility, Canon City, Colorado, 1991

Photo: Trent Nelson-Salt Lake Tribune//Reuters/Corbis

Execution by Firing Squad, Utah State Prison, Draper, Utah, 2010

Utah now only allows for death by firing squad if lethal injection is deemed unconstitutional, or if a prisoner chose this method of death before May 3, 2004.

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Witness Room, Broad River Correctional Facility, Columbia, South Carolina, 1991

Photo: Jerry Laizure/AP

Execution Chamber, Oklahoma State Penitentiary, McAlester, Oklahoma, 1996

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Gas Chamber, Central Prison, Raleigh, North Carolina, 1991

North Carolina now uses lethal injection as its sole method of execution.

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Gallows, Department of Corrections, Smyrna, Delaware, 1991

Delaware tore down its gallows in 2003. Executions are now performed through lethal injection.

Photo: Amber Hunt/AP

Lethal Injection Chamber, South Dakota State Penitentiary, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 2012

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Lethal Injection Chamber, Nevada State Prison, Carson City, Nevada, 1991

The Nevada State Prison closed May 18, 2012. There are 83 people still on death row.

Photo: Stephen Lance Denee/AP

Execution Chamber, Kentucky State Penitentiary, Eddyville, Kentucky, 2004

Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP

Execution Chamber, Riverbend Maximum Security Institute, Nashville, Tennessee, 1999

Photo: Jack Smith/AP

Execution Chamber, Oregon State Penitentiary, Salem, Oregon, 1997 

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Lethal Injection Chamber From Family Witness Room, Parchman State Penitentiary, Parchman, Mississippi, 1998

Photo: Ric Feld/AP/Corbis

Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison, Jackson, Georgia, 2001

Photo: Pennsylvania Dept. of Corrections

State Correctional Institute Rockview, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, 2008

Photo: Walter Hinick/AP

Execution Chamber, Montana State Prison, Deer Lodge, Montana, 1998

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Lethal Injection Chamber, Texas State Prison, Huntsville, Texas, 1992

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Lethal Injection Chamber From Witness Room, Cummins Unit, Grady, Arkansas, 1991

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Electric Chair, Holman Unit, Atmore, Alabama, 1991  

As of July 1, 2002, Alabama uses lethal injection unless a death row inmate requests death by electrocution. 

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Lethal Injection Chamber, Louisiana State Prison, Angola, Louisiana, 1992

Photo: Michael Macor/The San Francisco Chronicle/AP

Injection Table, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin, California, 2010

Photo: Lucinda Devlin/Galerie m Bochum

Gas Chamber, Arizona State Prison, Florence, Arizona, 1992

Arizona now uses lethal injection. Inmates sentenced before November 1992 have a choice between death by lethal injection or gas. 

Photo: Gary Gardiner/AP

Death Chamber, Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, Lucasville, Ohio, 1997

All information regarding states’ death penalty procedures was gathered from the Death Penalty Information Center. Death row populations were verified with available data from states’ Department of Corrections websites.

*This post incorrectly stated that the Parchman State Penitentiary was located in Missouri. It is in Mississippi.

Haunting Photos of U.S. Death Chambers