"Oklahoma prison officials unveil new death chamber," is by Sean Murphy of the Associated Press. All of the news articles linked below include photographs of the new execution chamber.
Prison officials unveiled the renovated execution chamber inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary on Thursday and expressed confidence that the agency would be ready for the state's next scheduled execution in November.
The $71,000 reconstruction of the death chamber and adjacent witness rooms gives executioners more space in which to operate. Department of Corrections also spent about $34,000 on new medical equipment, including $12,500 for a surgical table and $6,000 for an ultrasound machine to help locate veins.
New protocols require more training for the execution team and backup procedures in case a lethal injection goes awry.
Prison workers will begin training on the new protocols this week, and the agency will be prepared for the Nov. 13 execution of Charles Warner, who was convicted of raping and killing his roommate's 11-month-old daughter in Oklahoma City in 1997, said prisons spokeswoman Terri Watkins.
"We will be ready," Watkins said.
Twenty-one death row inmates are suing Oklahoma seeking to block their executions, arguing that by tinkering with lethal injection chemicals, the state is experimenting on them and violating the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The federal judge in that case expressed serious concerns earlier this month that the state would be ready to carry out three executions this fall.
The Guardian posts, "The 21st century death chamber: $100,000 for a civilised execution," by Ed Pilkington. The Guardian also has posted video.
This week Oklahoma opened the doors of its maximum-security state penitentiary in McAlester to show off its spanking-new redesigned execution suite. It was a display of conspicuous transparency put on for the benefit of the media, which was paradoxical in the circumstances, as one of the main changes made under the renovation is to slash the number of media witnesses at all future executions by more than half.
As part of the media tour, the prison authorities handed reporters an itemised balance sheet that listed all the expenses that had gone into the upgrade. The 144 entries ranged from the mundane – $516.92 spent on new carpeting, $358.42 for paint stripper, $55.24 on “nuts and bolts” – to the more resonant.
Almost $2,000 were spent on restraints – four brown leather straps, one for each of the offender’s hands and one for each ankle. There was an order for 34 needles, as well as a set of new syringes for administering the lethal drugs.
And then there was the listing for a “surgical table”, commonly known as a gurney, costing a substantial $12,500. In case Oklahoma taxpayers are tempted to complain about such lavish expense, it should be pointed out that the new gurney is likely to see plenty of use: the last one was purchased by the state in the 1950s and was the centrepiece of at least 111 judicial killings.
Scott Crow, the department of corrections administrator of field operations who conducted the tour, waxed lyrical about the capabilities of the new death bed. “This is an electric bed which has the ability to raise or lower to accommodate the needs not only of witnesses in the viewing areas but any needs as far as the offender is concerned,” he said.
The Tulsa World reports, "DOC shows off revamped execution chamber," by Dylan Goforth.
About two dozen media members were given a tour of the renovated death chamber Thursday, about a month ahead of the first scheduled execution since Lockett was put to death. Charles Warner, who was scheduled to die the same night as Lockett but saw his execution halted while officials determined what went wrong in Lockett’s death, is set to die Nov. 13.
The most dramatic changes were made to the operations room and the death chamber itself. In those two rooms, the mandate seemed to be focused on updating surprisingly old equipment and methods. The most expensive purchase of the remodel, a new surgical table that cost $12,500, replaced one from the 1950s, Scott said.
For years, communication between technicians in the chamber and those in the viewing room had to be done by an antiquated coded system of pushing colored pens through the wall. That system was replaced by a two-way intercom system that cost only $59.99.
In the death chamber, which shrank by 3½ feet during the remodel, two new cameras feed to two TVs in the operations room. Only one person will be in the room with the offender during the execution, Scott said. Everyone else – up to eight people, including a recorder monitoring a timeline of events, and Patton — will be in the operations room.
Who the person in the room with the offender during the execution will be remains a mystery. DOC spokeswoman Terri Watkins said ongoing litigation means state officials do not yet know who will fill that role during Warner’s upcoming execution.
The operations room was grew about 3½ feet during the remodel, Scott said, all of which was taken from the death chamber. A new bench runs across the back of the room with a storage locker below the seating. That, Scott said, was not there before and allows staffers to keep drugs and supplies on board that were not available before.
"Oklahoma corrections official allow media to tour new death chamber," is by Graham Lee Brewer for the Oklahoman.
Charles Fredrick Warner is scheduled to die Nov. 13, and Richard Eugene Glossip is scheduled to be executed by the state one week later, on Nov. 20. In September, a federal judge expressed doubts the state Corrections Department could implement changes to its protocol in time for the executions. That protocol was unveiled Oct. 1.
Reporters were restricted from asking questions that were not directly related to the new execution chamber, however, Corrections Department spokeswoman Terri Watkins did acknowledge the November executions would remain on schedule.
The most significant change to the chamber was the enlargement of the “chemical room,” where the executioners administer the lethal drugs.
The execution room, where the condemned inmate is strapped to a gurney, was shortened slightly to make room for the changes.
As a result of the smaller execution chamber, seating was shortened in the witness area, and media seats for executions have been reduced, as well.
"Death chamber renovations done," is by Glenn Puit and Parker Perry of CNHI News Service, via the Muskogee Daily Phoenix.
The new equipment at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester includes cameras, television and microphone equipment, allowing for direct communication between the execution room and an adjacent operations room where Director of Corrections Robert Patton will observe all executions. New phone lines on a single phone bank also will allow Patton to reach the governor and also the state attorney general immediately if necessary.
“One of the things that was required...was that we improve or enhance our communications within this area,” said Scott Crow, administrator for field operations for the DOC.
Some of the new technology replaces a system in which corrections employees held up colored pencils to communicate between the execution and operations rooms during executions.
"Oklahoma unveils renovated execution chamber after botched execution," is Reuters coverage by Heide Brandes.
Approximately $34,000 of the $106,000 spent on the project went to new medical equipment, including an ultrasound machine to help locate veins on the condemned, state prison officials said.
The "improvements ... will improve overall efficiency,” said Scott Crow, administrator of field operations at the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
The execution chamber was also outfitted with an electronically controlled bed, restraint and intercom systems and an ECG machine, prison officials said.
New communications equipment and cameras were also added to the execution chamber, the adjacent operations room and the two witness areas, officials said.
Earlier coverage from Oklahoma begins at the link.