South Carolina Readies Firing Squad for Death Penalty
The South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) announced on Mar. 18, 2022, that the state is ready to carry out firing squad executions. Though South Carolina had 37 men on death row as of Mar. 19, 2022, no executions were currently scheduled in the state.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R) signed a bill into law on May 14, 2021 that required death row inmates to choose between the electric chair and a firing squad if lethal injection is not available as a method of execution.
Lethal injection is the required method of execution if the drugs are available, but obtaining the drugs has been complicated by pharmaceutical companies refusing to sell the drugs to states for executions. South Carolina’s supply of lethal injection drugs expired in 2013.
$53,000 was spent to renovate the Capital Punishment Facility at Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, the state’s capital, including measures to allow firing squad executions.
A memo from the South Carolina Department of Corrections explained that a chair had been installed in which the hooded prisoner will sit. Additionally, “[b]ullet-resistant glass has been installed between the witness room and death chamber. The firing squad chair is metal with restraints and is surrounded by protective equipment. The chair faces a wall with a rectangular opening 15 feet away.” The statement further explains that three firing squad members (volunteer SCDC employees) will be behind the wall with their rifles, all loaded with live ammunition, pointed at the prisoner through the hole in the wall. Witnesses will face the right side of the prisoner on the other side of the bullet-resistant glass.
Three other states allow for the firing squad as a backup method of execution: Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah. Since 1976, only three people in the United States have been executed by firing squad. All states with the death penalty have indicated lethal injection as the primary method. Eight states allow the electric chair as a backup method and seven allow lethal gas if lethal injection drugs are not available. 16 states have no backup method should lethal injection not be an option.
24 states allow the death penalty, 3 have moratoriums on capital punishment, and 23 states and DC have abolished the death penalty, as of Mar. 22, 2022. However, many states, including those with a legal death penalty, have not executed a prisoner in the last five or ten years, including South Carolina where the last execution was in 2011
1. Should the death penalty be legal? Why or why not?
2. Should the firing squad be used as a method of execution? Why or why not?
3. What sort of punishment should be implemented if not the death penalty? Explain your answers
1. Brad Dress, “South Carolina Says It’s Ready for Firing Squad Executions,” thehill.com, Mar. 18, 2022
2. Daniel Politi, “South Carolina Can Now Carry Out Death Row Executions by Firing Squad,” slate.com, Mar. 19, 2022
3. Shawna Mizelle and Jamiel Lynch, “South Carolina Can Now Carry Out Firing-Squad Executions,” cnn.com, Mar. 18, 2022
4. Joseph Choi, “South Carolina Governor Signs Law Giving Death Row Inmates Choice between Firing Squad or Electric Chair,” thehill.com, May 17, 2021
5. South Carolina Department of Corrections, March 18, 2022 Memo, state.sc.us, Mar. 18, 2022
6. Jaclyn Diaz, “Death Row Executions by Firing Squad Can Now Be Carried Out in South Carolina,” npr.org, Mar. 18, 2022