Oregon Governor Kate Brown is a vocal advocate against the death penalty. Tuesday, December 13, she announced the cessation of this punishment in her state. The 17 inmates on Oregon’s death row now have their sentences commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Governor Brown, a Democrat, took office in 2015 and continued the state’s moratorium on executions. Oregon has not put an inmate to death since 1997. In a statement released by the Governor’s office on Wednesday, Brown deemed the death penalty “dysfunctional and immoral” and used this as the basis for her decision which she clarified as “not based on any rehabilitative efforts by the individuals on death row.”
Brown also offered some rather practical thoughts on our legal system’s ultimate sentence. “I have long believed that justice is not advanced by taking a life, and the state should not be in the business of executing people—even if a terrible crime placed them in prison,” she said.
“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.”
Governor Brown added that many Oregonians shared her values and opinions on this wedge issue. Oregon’s SB 1013, signed into law by Governor Brown in 2019, significantly limits the passing of a death sentence in the state. Today’s commuted sentences echo California Governor Gavin Newsome’s 2019 pledge that his state’s death row was slated to be dismantled over the next two years. Colorado, Washington, and Pennsylvania have also put a hold on executions.
In direct contrast, some states carry out death sentences frequently. Texas is known as “ground zero” for capital punishment in the United States. Since 1982, 578 people have been executed here. In 2022, the state put five people to death, and as of December 12, 2022, eight executions have been scheduled for 2023.
Oregon has carried out two executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978. In 2011, then-governor John Kitzhaber placed a moratorium on capital punishment. Governor Brown continued this action. Her order to commute the sentences of those on Oregon’s death row will take effect from Thursday, December 14.