Another Unlikely Ally Speaks Out

Frank Thompson, the former superintendent of the Oregon State Penitentiary who oversaw the last two executions in the state, testified in front of the Oregon House Judiciary Committee yesterday, urging the committee members to pass a resolution that would put a referendum before voters to decide whether or not to repeal the death penalty and replace it with a sentence of life in prison without parole.

Thompson argued that the death penalty does nothing to deter crime or improve public safety. “Asking decent men and women to participate in the name of a failed public policy that takes human life is indefensible and rises to a level of immorality,” said Thompson.

Thompson joined the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, along with about a dozen others, including a mother whose daughter was murdered, to testify before the committee. Greenlick, a long time death penalty opponent who has been wanting to get a repeal bill moved since he was first elected in 2002, testified that the death penalty is not moral nor equitable. “You don’t have many millionaires on death row,” he argued.

Last year, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber issued a reprieve in the pending execution of death row inmate Gary Haugen. He vowed that there would not be executions as long as he was governor and urged the public to debate alternatives to their broken death penalty system. Kitzhaber submitted a letter yesterday, reiterating his concerns about the death penalty. “It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach,” he wrote.

With more unusual allies like former correctional leaders and victims’ families speaking out, hopefully states like Oregon can move toward repeal.

(Photo by Thomas Boyd/The Oregonian)

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