Arizona Wants to Bring Back Zyklon B for Gas Chamber Executions

The state has reportedly ordered the ingredients necessary to make the deadly compound.
Stock photo of a gas chamber
Stock photo of a gas chamber (Getty Images)

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Arizona has “refurbished” a prison’s gas chamber and purchased the ingredients necessary to create the same deadly chemical compound used by Nazis during the Holocaust.

The state’s Department of Corrections has bought more than $2,000 worth of ingredients to make hydrogen cyanide gas, according to documents obtained and published by The Guardian. That same type of gas was used by Nazis to murder more than one million prisoners at the Auschwitz-Birkenau, and other death camps during World War II, including Jews, Poles, Roma, and prisoners of war. When it was used during WWII, the gas was known by the trade name “Zyklon B.”

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Arizona has bought sodium hydroxide pellets and sulfuric acid, which produce the lethal gas. The Department of Corrections also spent $1,530 on a solid brick of poisonous potassium cyanide in December.

Arizona State Prison Complex, Florence, where the state’s gas chamber is located, has been out of commission for years after a botched execution in 1999 left a prisoner suffocating for 18 minutes before he finally died. The chamber was originally built in 1949.  

State officials have been preparing the gas chamber for use since August of 2020, according to The Guardian. The prison has conducted tests with smoke grenades and water to ensure seals on the windows and doors are working, and guards checked for gas leaks with a candle, according to the outlet.

Prison staff went as far as to conduct mock executions last year, pretending to be inmates who were being put to death, screaming “This is murder,” and “I’m innocent,” according to documents obtained by the Guardian. 

The moves to get the gas chamber up and running come as 115 inmates currently sit on death row in Arizona. The state, which is under Republican control, is eager to continue executions, according to The Guardian. 

Arizona has traditionally used lethal injection to execute prisoners, but that has been put on pause since 2014, when it took almost two hours for Joseph Wood to die after he was given a botched lethal injection. The U.S. is also experiencing a national shortage in drugs used to make lethal injection cocktails.

Besides chemicals to create deadly gas, Arizona has also purchased $1.5 million worth of pentobarbital in October 2020, a sedative used during lethal injections, The Guardian reported last month.  

If the gas chamber becomes functional, death row prisoners will have a choice between dying by poison gas, or dying by lethal injection.