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.
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 archbishop of Portland was one of many Catholics who praised the move:
Catholic and other opponents of the death penalty applauded Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s decision to commute the sentences of the state’s 17 inmates on death row, changing their sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The decision, effective Dec. 14, was announced the previous day by the Democratic governor, who said she was using her executive clemency powers in this decision, stressing that she has “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.”
Archbishop Alexander K. Sample of Portland was pleased with the announcement and said his “prayer is that a recognition of the true value of human life will take deep root in the minds and hearts of all Oregonians.”
Krisanne Vaillancourt Murphy, executive director of Catholic Mobilizing Network, similarly praised the decision and said she hopes “other state leaders across the nation and the federal government will follow (Brown’s) example in abandoning the antiquated, immoral and unjust system of capital punishment.”
“Today’s commutation action by Governor Brown further solidifies a growing rejection of capital punishment — not just in Oregon, but in states across the country,” she said in a Dec. 13 statement.
Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph and longtime advocate of ending capital punishment, simply tweeted: “Thank you, Governor Brown, for your courageous moral leadership!”