Arizona’s Refurbishment of a Gas Chamber for Death Row Inmates is condemned by the American Jewish Committee.
The American Jewish Committee slammed Arizona this week after it was revealed that the state had covertly repaired its gas chamber late last year as it prepared to reintroduce the death penalty.
According to the Associated Press, the state obtained components to manufacture hydrogen cyanide gas, which has been used in some previous U.S. executions as well as by Nazis in concentration camps during World War II. At Auschwitz alone, the gas was used to kill 865,000 Jews.
“Whether one supports the death penalty in general or not, there is widespread consensus in American society that a gas developed as a pesticide and used to exterminate Jews has no place in the administration of criminal justice,” the American Jewish Committee stated.
In 1924, the gas chamber was first utilized as a means of execution, and in 1992, Arizona passed a law mandating that all executions be carried out by lethal injection. Officials from the Department of Corrections declined to comment on the reintroduction of the gas chamber, saying it may be used as a last resort as states struggle to procure medications for lethal injection.
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The prison in Florence, Arizona, was secretly renovated late last year, prompting condemnation as a brutal method to punishment that is out of touch with modern values.
Despite the shortfall, executions have dropped to near-record lows across the country, though some states are finding ways around it. Last month, the state of South Carolina passed legislation requiring death row inmates to choose between the electric chair and a newly constituted firing squad.
Arizona has had trouble finding drug suppliers as well, but announced this spring that it had received a shipment of pentobarbital.
Officials from the Arizona Department of Corrections cited statutory and constitutional provisions that allow death row inmates to choose the gas chamber over lethal injection if they were convicted of crimes committed before the state implemented lethal injection in 1992. The state is one of four that still has decades-old gas-chamber laws in place.
It’s unknown if any of Arizona’s death-row inmates have expressed an interest in the procedure.
The state corrections department said in a statement that it’s “prepared to fulfill its constitutional obligations, carry out court orders and deliver justice to the victims’ families.”
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