“Todos los cristianos y hombres de buena voluntad están llamadas hoy a trabajar no sólo por la abolición de la pena de muerte, sino también para mejorar las condiciones de las cárceles, en el respeto de la dignidad humana de las personas privadas de libertad.” - Papa Francisco
The death penalty was first adopted in Oregon in 1864. Hangings were carried out publicly until 1903. Since 1904, about 60 persons have been executed in Oregon. There are currently 34 inmates on death row.
Oregon abolished the death penalty in 1914 via popular vote. It was reinstated again in 1920, also by popular vote. In 1964, Oregon voters once again voted to repeal the death penalty and once again voted for reinstatement in 1978. In 1981, the Oregon Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional, but Oregon voters reinstated capital punishment in 1984. The first execution after the most recent reinstatement of the death penalty occurred in 1996.
Efforts to end the use of the death penalty have been heating up as the state faces budget shortfalls. On November 22, 2011, Gov. John Kitzhaber halted all scheduled executions in the state by imposing an indefinite moratorium, calling the death penalty process “compromised and inequitable.”
In 2019, Governor Kate Brown signed a bill into law that narrowed the definition of aggravated murder, which is the only crime in Oregon eligible for a death sentence. Under the new law, aggravated murder is reserved only for defendants who kill two or more people as an act of organized terrorism; intentionally and with premeditation kill a child younger than 14; kill another person while locked up in jail or prison for a previous murder; or kill a police, correctional or probation officer. This change in policy is the first major legislative restriction to Oregon’s death penalty since 1984, when voters amended the constitution to include capital punishment.
For more information and ways to get involved, contact your state's organizations:
The Oregon Catholic Conference advocates and promotes the pastoral teaching of Oregon’s Catholic bishops on various issues at the state and national levels in service to the Catholic people of Oregon. The active Catholic bishops in Oregon are the members of the Oregon Catholic Conference.
Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty evolved out of the Oregon Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which was organized in 1983. OADP is incorporated in Oregon as a nonprofit organization with the purpose of research and education on the effectiveness of the death penalty and its alternatives.