Only in Nevada: Turning the state’s only working execution chamber into a museum

Welcome to Nevada sign - Will a living execution chamber turn into a museum?

Many Coloradans are eying Nebraska lawmakers’ vote this week to repeal the death penalty. But some heads are turning west toward Nevada where legislators just moved to turn a 150-year-old state prison — including the state’s only working execution chamber — into a museum.

As the former head of the Department of Corrections champions the prison’s potential as a movie set and a great place to take the kids, others are baffled that an active killing room could be a tourist attraction.

Death-penalty abolitionists may wish capital punishment were a relic of the past to be displayed as an antiquated misfortune in a museum. But execution is a current reality in Nevada. That state has 77 people on death row, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Nevada executed its last prisoner in 2006.

“The museum really won’t get opened up and be fully public until such things as the execution chamber are taken care of,” Republican Assemblyman P.K O’Neill told the Associated Press. “Even if we did have tourists, we’d shut them down several weeks prior, because it is still an active execution chamber. We want to be, and we will be, respectful of that.”

In the meantime, Nevada lawmakers just voted to spend $860,000 on a new building where the state can put prisoners to death. Especially in light of this week’s vote in Nebraska and an apparent legislative trend to end capital punishment, abolitionists are asking: Is it worth the cost?

Photo credit: Gunther Hagleitner, Creative Commons, Flickr.


  1. There will be a new execution facility constructed at Ely State Prison in the near future. The Nevada state Prison in Carson City is too old to continue to operating as a correctional institution however it is well suited for conversion to a museum.

    A number of other states have repurposed their old prisons and execution equipment for museum purposes. For instance, the Colorado Prison Museum in Canon City has the state’s former gas chamber sitting in a gazebo outside. It is a fascinating relic of the past in corrections.

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