This post isn’t about maps in the geographical sense, as is normally the case in this blog series about human rights maps. Still, I think it’s interesting to have a look at the topography of the death penalty, given that few among us actually know a lot about the actual practice of an execution (it’s not done in public anymore, at least not in most parts of the world).
How nice of them to separate the two families. Let’s just hope that they won’t think that having a bigger room means having to use it more often.
An interesting setup is this one from Japan:
This is the execution room in the Tokyo Detention House. Notice the three buttons in the second picture, placed on the wall in a room adjacent to the actual execution room. The setup is designed in such a way that the executioner doesn’t have to come face-to-face with the convict. Moreover, the three buttons have to be pressed simultaneously by three officers, but only one button actually opens the trapdoor (red square on the floor, below the hook in the ceiling). None of the officers is told which button is the live one that will cause the prisoner’s death.
The red square on the white floor marks the spot in the windowless room where convicts stand with the noose around their neck, before a trapdoor opens below them and they plunge to their deaths. The noose is hung from the hook in the ceiling just above the trapdoor. I suppose the rings in the wall and floor are for restraining the prisoner temporarily.
Below is a floor plan of the execution room in the prison at Terre Haute, Indiana:
If you look carefully, you’ll notice that the viewing rooms have toilet facilities. I’m sure there’s a good reason for that.
Below is the hanging room in the Washington State Penitentiary (also called the Walla Walla State Penitentiary):
The curious thing here is that the viewing area seems to be positioned at a height that makes it possible to see the face of the convict after the drop. That’s not something I understand, or want to understand.
Between 1991 and 1998, Lucinda Devlin photographed in different penitentiaries in the U.S. She called the resulting series The Omega Suites, alluding to the final letter of the Greek alphabet as a metaphor for the finality of execution. The series includes numerous photographs of execution chambers. Here are a few:
Notice the air filter just above the chair. I imagine the rubber on the floor is there to protect the executioners. The same room viewed from the executioner’s booth (notice the large switch):
Some more from the same series:
There’s also this innovative approach in China.
- Japan opens up death chamber to media for first time (alternet.org)
- Human Rights Maps (116): Life Without Parole For U.S. Teenagers (filipspagnoli.wordpress.com)