The city of Terre Haute, Ind., a community of 60,000 once better known as the location of Indiana State University, has gained worldwide attention because of a previously little-publicized federal prison specially designed to handle executions.

On July 13, 1999 the United States Penitentiary (USP) Terre Haute, Ind., opened a Special Confinement Unit to provide humane, safe, and secure confinement of male offenders who have been sentenced to death by the federal courts. As a result of this action, inmates with federal death sentences have been transferred from other federal and state correctional facilities to USP Terre Haute for placement in this Special Confinement Unit.

As many as 21 inmates have been housed in the unit.

The physical design of the two-story renovated housing unit includes 50 single cells, upper and lower tier corridors, an industrial workshop, indoor and outdoor recreation areas, a property room, a food preparation area, attorney and family visiting rooms, and a video-teleconferencing area for inmates and their attorneys.

The Special Confinement Unit operations ensure inmates are afforded routine institutional services such as work programs, visitation, commissary privileges, telephone access, and law library services.

On July 19, 1993, USP Terre Haute was designated as the site by the Federal Bureau of Prisons where implementation of the federal death penalty would occur, including the establishment of a Special Confinement Unit for federal death penalty cases.

In 1995-96, the facility was modified to accommodate this responsibility. Prior to housing special confinement cases, this unit was used to house Cuban detainees.

USP Terre Haute was constructed in 1940. Today it is one of nine federal high-security prisons that confine the Bureau's most dangerous offenders.