South Carolina Is Now Ready to Carry Out Executions by Firing Squad

A guard tower is seen at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, Lee County, South Carolina, April 2018. (Randall Hill/Reuters)

South Carolina’s Department of Corrections said Friday it is now ready to carry out executions by firing squad after the state passed legislation last year codifying the method of execution into law. 

The state spent $53,600 renovating the Capital Punishment Facility at Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia to allow for executions by firing squad “if the inmate chooses this method,” the department said in a statement.

The death chamber now includes a metal chair with restraints where inmates will sit with a hood placed over their head. The chair faces a wall with a rectangular opening 15 feet away. Three firing squad members, who will be employees of the Corrections Department who have volunteered, will stand behind the wall and place their rifles through the opening with their weapons aimed at the inmate’s heart.

The inmate will be given an opportunity to make a final statement. Bullet resistant-glass has also been added between the witness chamber and the death chamber.

While the state’s primary method of execution is via electric chair, death by lethal injection and firing squad are options, if available.

The measure codifying the firing squad into law passed last year after a decade-long moratorium on executions when South Carolina could not obtain lethal injection drugs, according to the Associated Press. There are 37 men on the state’s death row, Fox News reported.

The state Supreme Court blocked the scheduled executions of two inmates by electrocution in June, ruling that Brad Sigmon and Freddie Owens could not be executed until they have the option to choose death by firing squad as laid out in the state’s newly amended law.

During debate over the state’s execution methods, state Senator Dick Harpootlian, a Democrat, suggested the firing squad option, arguing it is the “least painful” method available.

“The death penalty is going to stay the law here for a while,” Harpootlian said. “If we’re going to have it, it ought to be humane.”

South Carolina becomes one of only four states to allow execution by firing squad, including Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah, according to the Death Penalty Information Center,

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