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Oct 10, 2014 | US MADNESS

Penitentiary Interiors: To Die For

Oklahoma is not usually a State much associated with the sophistication of interior design but that is about to change with the unveiling of the newly designed death chamber in the State's Penitentiary in McAlester that is bound to make a splash.


Although born out of necessity (neglected for some time it had practically turned into a torture instead of a death chamber) and not out of any grandiose renovation plan to score points before the impending mid-term elections, the outcome of this seemingly understated intervention has been surprisingly  elegant.


To a commoner's eye the new interiors may seem at first glance an ordinary, run-of-the-mill job. But from a designer's as well as an executioner's perspective it is anything but. From the unassuming yet comforting color palette (50 shades of grey), to the masterful lighting design bathing the stretched out, condemned inmate in a most flattering light (yet retaining the aura of culpability), the main chamber is a paradigm for the next generation of death row design, not to mention an executioner's dream.


The adjoining viewing room has been also meticulously created; from the thoughtful cup holder for every chair to the amphitheatric configuration that ensures unobstructed views of the execution from all rows, and with a state of the art surround sound system & ergonomic seating, it gives the viewers an unparallel experience of human mortality. "Best show in town", as one member of the design team requesting anonymity proclaimed.


The chamber's centerpiece, a cutting edge, custom made gurney is equipped with soft leather hand straps, a hypoallergic harness and a massage mattress layer, ideal for relaxing the tension of imminent demise. All of its functions are digitally handled and it can also be remotely controlled through a tablet (app available for both iOS and Android). Its specifications abide to the strictest regulations as well as to feng shui principles.


The renovation of the chamber presented a chance not just to promote interior design in State and Federal government facilities, but also provided a business opportunity. On the sidelines of the building contract, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODC) made a lucrative deal with a yet to be announced production company allowing  the use of  the renovated chamber in the filming of the upcoming, much hyped, reality TV series, "America's Next Top Executioner".


Created posthumously by Joan Rivers and executive produced by Jay S. Bybee (of CIA's "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" memo fame) , the show will have a star-studded judging panel including Marilyn Manson, Betty White and executioner to celebrities Conrad Murray (of Michael Jackson fame). Mrs. Rivers is also scheduled for some guest-judge appearances through a licensed medium or her daughter Melissa (pending some additional plastic surgery).


Contestants in the show will face a different, exciting challenge each week and be judged on its "execution"; the contestant with the lower score will be "eliminated" (the show involves a lot of puns). The challenges will test their execution skills under various conditions and through a variety of techniques. For example:


"Your challenge today is to electrocute this doomed inmate using an iPhone charger and a cup of water; you have 15 minutes, go!




"You have to lethally inject this convicted vagabond using only laundry detergents and without touching any veins in his limbs or torso, you have 10 minutes, go!"


No human will be harmed in the show (except those deserving it). The ODC projects that is will recoup the investment in two seasons.

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