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Why Oregon's Governor Just Commuted the Sentence of Every Death Row Inmate in the State

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Tuesday she is commuting the sentences of the state’s 17 inmates on death row. 

“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,” said Brown, who leaves office in less than a month. 


The sentences have been changed to life in prison without parole.

“Unlike previous commutations I’ve granted to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary growth and rehabilitation, this commutation is not based on any rehabilitative efforts by the individuals on death row,” Brown noted.

“Instead, it reflects the recognition that the death penalty is immoral,” she continued. “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.”

There has not been an execution on Brown's watch since she took office in 2015, continuing her predecessor’s death penalty moratorium. The last execution to take place in the state occurred in 1997.

Brown's Democrat successor, Tina Kotek, has said she, too, will continue the moratorium. 

Republican lawmakers in the state criticized the move. 

“Gov. Brown has once again taken executive action with zero input from Oregonians and the Legislature,” state Rep. Vikki Breese-Iverson said in a statement. “Her decisions do not consider the impact the victims and families will suffer in the months and years to come. Democrats have consistently chosen criminals over victims.”


Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty praised Brown, however.

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