South Carolina’s Department of Corrections told the state Attorney General’s office on Friday that a firing squad execution chamber is now ready for use.
Last year, the state made the electric chair their primary method for carrying out the death penalty, but would give inmates an option to choose death by firing squad or lethal injection instead — if the options were available.
However, due to a shortage of the drugs used for lethal injections, that option has not been available to the 35 inmates facing execution in the state.
Now, a firing squad chamber has been completed in the Capital Punishment Facility at Broad River Correctional Institute in Columbia.
“The South Carolina Department of Corrections spent about $53,600 to establish a firing squad and renovate its execution facility, according to Department of Corrections spokesperson Chrysti Shain. That includes a number of rifles — exactly how many was redacted in a response to a records request by The Greenville News — and it includes renovations to the capital-punishment facility, stainless steel sheeting, ammunition and ballistic partitions, according to invoices obtained through the Freedom of Information Act,” the Greenville News reports.
The state’s Supreme Court will now have to approve the way in which the firing squad takes place.
“The chamber now includes a chair where inmates can sit if they choose execution by firing squad. The metal chair with restraints is surrounded by protective equipment in a corner of the room away from the nearly 110-year-old electric chair, which cannot be moved,” the Greenville News report explains. “The firing-squad chair faces a wall with a rectangular opening 15 feet away. The squad’s rifles and the open portal will not be visible from the execution chamber’s witness room.”
Unlike electric chair executions, the inmate will not face witnesses. Instead, they will have a side-profile view.
“The inmate will be strapped into the chair, and a hood will be placed over their head. A small aim point will be placed over their heart, and after the warden reads the execution order, the firing squad will fire,” the report continues. “After the shots, a doctor will examine the inmate. Once the inmate is declared dead, the curtain will be drawn and witnesses escorted out.”
Utah is currently the only state to use a firing squad in the last four decades.
The Greenville News noted, “unlike Utah, which uses a five-member firing squad, South Carolina will have three law-enforcement officers in its firing squad, and all three will have live rounds, while in Utah at least one rifle fires non-lethal bullets.”
The shooters will be volunteers who meet certain qualifications.