Op-Ed: Oregon Should Follow Connecticut

Governor Daniel Malloy signs the Connecticut bill to replace the death penalty with an alternative punishment

On April 12, 2012, the Connecticut legislature replaced its death penalty with life in prison with no possibility of release. When Governor Daniel Malloy signs the bill into law, Connecticut will be the 17th state and the fifth in recent years to replace the death penalty with an alternative punishment that ensures both the safety of its citizens, but also guarantees that no innocent person will be executed.

Oregonians should follow Connecticut’s lead. Since 1976, Connecticut had only executed one person, a so-called “volunteer” who gave up his right to appeal. Oregon has only executed two people in that time, also both volunteers. Eleven men are currently on Connecticut’s death row. None are near an execution date. Oregon has 37 people under a sentence of death. None are near an execution date.

Governor Kitzhaber has urged Oregonians to discuss whether the death penalty makes us safer. It does not. Times are tough. Budgets are being cut across the board. Schools are being closed. Police forces are being reduced. In Portland, Salem and elsewhere we are trying to solve “cold case” murders with billboards and will likely need to cut domestic violence and child abuse investigations.

Replacing the death penalty with life without release will give a boost to local law enforcement budgets at a time of severe budget shortfalls. Why should we cut schools when we can cut the death penalty and keep life without parole? We can replace the death penalty without putting Oregonians at risk. Convicted killers will still be held accountable and pay for their crimes. Those people sentenced to death will still die in prison—at the end of their life without release sentence.

Connecticut decided that there was a better alternative to its broken death penalty system. Oregon’s death penalty system is equally broken. A better alternative exists in Oregon, too. Oregon should get in line with that growing list of states which have decided that safety, accountability, and full enforcement of the law are better served by life without parole sentences.

Ron Steiner, Board Chair
Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (OADP)



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