Oregon Gov. Kate Brown commutes sentences of state's 17 death row inmates

Gov. Kate Brown said her order will take effect on Wednesday

Democratic Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon announced on Tuesday she is commuting the sentences of the state's 17 inmates on death row, noting that their sentences will be changed to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Brown, who is set to leave office next month, said her order will take effect on Wednesday.

"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," Brown said in a statement.

No prisoner in Oregon has been executed in 25 years. 

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Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, D, announced on Tuesday she is commuting the sentences of the state's 17 inmates on death row, and that their sentences will be changed to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, D, announced on Tuesday she is commuting the sentences of the state's 17 inmates on death row, and that their sentences will be changed to life in prison without the possibility of parole. (AP Newsroom)

The governor had said in her first news conference after taking office in 2015 that she would continue the death penalty moratorium implemented by her predecessor, former Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Brown said in her announcement on Tuesday that victims experience "pain and uncertainty while individuals sit on death row—especially in states with moratoriums on executions—without resolution."

"My hope is that this commutation will bring us a significant step closer to finality in these cases," she said.

To date, 17 people have been executed in the U.S. this year, all of which were carried out by lethal injection, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. All of these executions took place in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Missouri and Alabama.

The execution room at the Oregon State Penitentiary is pictured on Nov. 18, 2011, in Salem, Oregon.

The execution room at the Oregon State Penitentiary is pictured on Nov. 18, 2011, in Salem, Oregon. (AP Newsroom)

Oregon is one of several states in the U.S. to move away from the execution of prisoners. 

Brown acknowledged in her statement that she previously granted commutations to "individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary growth and rehabilitation," but that this commutation "is not based on any rehabilitative efforts by the individuals on death row."

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All executions carried out in the U.S. in 2022 took place in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Missouri and Alabama.

All executions carried out in the U.S. in 2022 took place in Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Missouri and Alabama. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

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"Instead, it reflects the recognition that the death penalty is immoral," 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."

In May 2020, the Oregon Department of Corrections declared that it was phasing out its death row and reassigning those inmates to other special housing units or general population units in state prisons.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.