The gas chamber at the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore, in disuse and disrepair since the state's last execution in 1961, has been refurbished and "is in working order in the event it should be required," says penitentiary Warden Howard N. Lyles.

Sixteen men and two women are currently on death row in the state prison system. All have various avenues of appeal still available to them, officials said, and no execution is thought to be imminent.

With the revival of capital punishment in the nation and the state's new death penalty statute in effect since 1978, prison officials decided to put the gas chamber back in working condition.

Located on the second floor of the penitentiary's hospital wing, the six-sided chamber was repainted and tested twice to make sure all seals and gaskets are airtight, Lyles said. Bulletproof windows that had been removed from the chamber were replaced. Pollution monitors from the Maryland Environmental Service were on hand for a test of lethal cyanide gas on April 15, Lyles said, and the system was found in "excellent working order."

Lyles said he did not know how much the overhaul cost, but prison officials had projected the cost in late 1983 at about $1,500.