Oregon Governor Kate Brown is commuting the sentences of 17 people on the state’s death row, effective on Wednesday. Those inmates will now spend the rest of their lives in prison without the possibility of parole.
In a statement, Brown said she does not believe that justice can be found in taking a life.
“Since taking office in 2015, I have continued Oregon’s moratorium on executions because the death penalty is both dysfunctional and immoral. Today I am commuting Oregon’s death row so that we will no longer have anyone serving a sentence of death and facing execution in this state. This is a value that many Oregonians share,” Brown said.
Brown says her decision is not about any efforts that have been made to rehabilitate those who are serving on death row. She said it is a moral decision.
“It is an irreversible punishment that does not allow for correction; is wasteful of taxpayer dollars; does not make communities safer; and cannot be and never has been administered fairly and equitably,” Brown said.
Oregon has executed two death row inmates in the past 52 years. Voters have repeatedly implemented and repealed it from the state’s Constitution.
In 2011, then-Gov. John Kitzhaber implemented an execution moratorium, which Brown has continued until Tuesday’s announcement.
“I also recognize the pain and uncertainty victims experience as they wait for decades while individuals sit on death row—especially in states with moratoriums on executions—without resolution,” Brown concluded. “My hope is that this commutation will bring us a significant step closer to finality in these cases.”
The Oregon Department of Corrections effectively dismantled death row in 2022 and moved inmates to the general population or other housing at state prisons.