Death Penalty

Prison Common AreaMore than 1,000 persons have been sent to North Carolina's death row since the state assumed responsibility for executing criminals in 1910.
The prison system houses male death row offenders at Central Prison and female death row offenders at the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women, both located in Raleigh.
At Central Prison, the men are housed in cellblocks of Unit III. Correctional officers in a control center watch the offenders at all times. Each unit has eight pods with 24 single cells - 12 cells on each level. The cells open into a dayroom area that has a television at one end, stainless steel tables in the middle and showers at the other end. Each cell has a bed, a lavatory, commode, and a wall-mounted writing table.
Death row offenders may be assigned incentive wage jobs in the canteen or clothes house, or may work as barbers or janitors within their housing areas. They are required to keep their cells and dayrooms clean. Offenders are allowed at least one hour per day for exercise and showers. Two days a week, officers escort death row offenders in groups from each cellblock pod to outdoor exercise areas, weather permitting, where the offenders can play basketball, walk or jog. Officers also escort the death row offenders by cellblock to the dining halls for each meal.
Death Watch Area at Central Prison


Death row offenders may receive one visit a week with a maximum of two visitors. In the visiting booths, visitors may see and talk with offenders, but physical contact is not possible. Offenders may participate in a one-hour Christian worship service each Sunday, or Islamic worship services for one hour each Friday. A Bible study class is also conducted by the prison's chaplain for 90 minutes each Tuesday morning.

If a death row offender violates prison regulations, he may be placed in a segregation cellblock outside of the death row area. He must eat his meals in his cell and is separated from other death row offenders for his daily hour of exercise and shower.

Conditions are similar for female offenders on death row. The women are housed in a cellblock of the maximum security building at NCCIW. Each of the single cells has a bed, lavatory and commode. The seven cells are side by side down a corridor. At the front of the cellblock is a dayroom with a television, table and chairs. This is where the women eat their meals. This room also serves as the visiting area, and all visits are supervised by correctional staff. As a group, the offenders are given at least an hour daily for exercise and showers. Volunteers provide Sunday worship services on death row. Chaplains are available for counseling.

When a death row offender exhausts all appeals, the attorney general directs the secretary of the Department of Adult Correction to set an execution date. That offender - male or female - is moved into the death watch area of Central Prison three to seven days prior to the execution date. The death watch area is adjacent to the execution chamber and is located in the prison's custody control building. The offender moves all personal belongings from the death row cell to one of the four cells in the death watch area.

Death Watch Area Cell

Each cell has a bed, lavatory, commode and a wall-mounted writing table. The cells are side by side and open into a dayroom where there is a table, a television and shower. With the exception of 15 minutes allowed for a shower, the offender spends the entire day in the cell. A sergeant and a correctional officer are stationed just outside the cell in the dayroom 24 hours a day.

The offender may receive visits from his/her attorney, chaplains, psychologists and others authorized by prison administrators and may receive non-contact family visits in the prison's regular visiting area. Contact visits may be allowed at the warden's discretion in the days immediately prior to execution. An offender on death watch is not allowed contact with other offenders. The offender remains in the death watch area until receiving a stay or until escorted to the execution chamber.  Executions are carried out in accordance with the state's execution protocol.