Summer 2019 Update Newsletter

OADP Update Newsletter

In this issue...

Volume XVI, No. 2
Summer 2019

Another Step Toward Repeal: Senate Bill 1013 Passes

Death sentence: Number of aggravating circumstances reduced.

Front Page Only a Sliver of the Story

Robust dialogue is needed about the Oregon death penalty laws.

Paid in Full Brings Prisons Education and Transformation

'Smart on Crime' because in America 'Tough on Crime’ Does Not Work.

Does Better Prison Food Help Reduce Recidivism?

Yes... and the information may provide constructive advice for Oregon's prisons.

Women in the Oregon Legislature

Oregon with 37 female legislative members ranks third in the nation.

Another step toward repeal in Oregon:
Senate Bill 1013 Passes

The road to passage of Senate Bill (SB 1013) to dramatically restrict the use of the death penalty in Oregon:

  • OADP Summit (May 2018)
  • SB 1013 Written (Dec 2018)
  • Pass Senate Judiciary committee 5-2 (May 17)
  • Pass Senate 18-9 (May 21)
  • Pass House Rules Committee (June 18)
  • Pass House of Representatives 33-26 (June 19)
  • Re-Pass Senate 17-10 (June 29)
  • Awaiting Governor Brown signature

In May of 2018, OADP staged a summit of legislators, academics, former judges, lobbyists, defense attorneys, abolitionists, faith leaders, and our board members to find a new way to move closer to death penalty repeal in Oregon.

After considerable discussion among the distinguished summit members, a legislative strategy was offered as a way to "reduce the use" and very importantly, boost the dialogue around the death penalty as a way to educate voters and energize supporters.

Nearly a year later, the Oregon legislature made the moves to employ this legislative strategy and move one giant step toward our goal of repeal in Oregon.

The first step in this strategy was to develop bills that included language that met our objectives and would be passable in both the Oregon Senate and House. Legislators, led by Sen. Floyd Prozanski and Rep. Mitch Greenlick, made the strategic decision to start in the Senate with Senate Bill 1013 (SB 1013). While two House bills were crafted, the decision was made based on the best chance of passage to promote SB 1013.

On April 1st, the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Sen. Prozanski held a hearing on SB 1013. OADP helped to arrange for an impressive list of supporters to testify on the bill before the committee. Lewis & Clark Law School professors Steve Kanter and Aliza Kaplan spoke to the legal basis for the legislature to change the statutes in question to make it harder for prosecutors to pursue "death" cases. As press reported on the bill: "Senate Bill 1013 would leave the little-used death penalty in the Oregon Constitution - only voters can take it out. The bill instead would sharply narrow the definition of aggravated murder, the only crime punishable by death in Oregon."

The outstanding panel of witnesses continued with testimony from OADP board member and top death penalty defense attorney Jeff Ellis and former Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul DeMuniz speaking to the exorbitant and wasteful cost of having a death penalty of over $29 million annually that has used only twice in the past 57 years. Several OADP board members including Lynn Strand and Becky O'Neil McBrayer, a murder victim family member who opposes the death penalty, were present at the hearing. Lynn testified on Becky's behalf. Following the expert legal experts was a panel of faith leaders that included: Howard Kenyon, Vice President from Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Rabbi Ariel Stone, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) Pastor Charles Mantey, and Roger Martin, lobbyist for the Western Oregon Catholic Archdiocese. During the more than two hours of testimony, the opposition offered only one witness, District Attorney Patty Perlow. Her testimony was limited to many details of terrible murders.

We are all disgusted by violence in our communities, but the scare tactic of prosecutors promoting revenge and retaliation, pale when considering the alternatives of stopping more violence in the form of an execution when life without parole is a severe sanction for aggravated murder.

Senate Bill 1013 carried by Sen. Floyd Prozanski was passed by the Oregon Senate on May 21 with overwhelming support by a vote of 18-9. Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reported, "With little fanfare--and zero debate--what some regard as the most meaningful effort to curtail the death penalty in recent memory."

The following day, the bill carried by Majority Leader Rep. Jennifer Williamson went to the Oregon House where it eventually passed 33-26. Because the bill had been amended in the House, it was necessary for the bill to return to the Senate for a concurrence vote.

With the Republican senators out of state and the clock ticking toward the final day of the session, things became very tense. The missing members returned with just two days to finish passage of SB 1013 and many others. The Senate burned the 'midnight oil' and finished their work, including passing the amended version of SB 1013 by a vote of 17-10. We had a win with our legislative strategy!

Governor Kate Brown has pledged to sign the bill into law and it will take effect 90 days after June 30th, the end of the 2019 Oregon legislative session. To be clear, SB 1013 is not retroactive, and it will not directly affect the inmates on death row. With a moratorium on executions in place and this bill passing, it is our hope that Gov. Brown may commute the death sentences on the 30 death row inmates to life without the possibility of parole.

The passage of SB 1013 accomplished two goals. First, the death penalty law was changed to reduce the number of aggravating circumstances that can impose a death sentence from 23 to just four. And of great importance, the whole legislative process generated a significant media buzz and conversation about the death penalty. This increase in dialogue is an important goal to help educate, energize, and mobilize voters in anticipation of our eventual goal to repeal the Oregon death penalty with the necessary vote of the people.

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Front Page Only a Sliver of the Story

By Ron Steiner, OADP Advisory Council Member

The Stateman Journal front-page article by Whitney Woodworth, "Bill could determine the fate of the death penalty", warrants some thanks for providing a partial, but only a tiny sliver of what is needed for robust dialogue about the Oregon death penalty laws.

One important piece of missing information from the article's 42 column inches of copy is that those of us pushing for the repeal of the Oregon death penalty are fully aware that Senate Bill 1013 (SB 1013) does not, nor can the bill's proposed statutory changes, determine the fate of the death penalty. Informed citizens understand that a vote of the people is the only way to repeal the death penalty in Oregon.

The claim by Marion County Deputy DA Katie Suver that "the new definition would essentially rule out the death penalty for most, if not all, murder cases" is misleading. The changes proposed in SB 1013 are statutes written by the legislature and can be changed by the legislature and do not repeal the death penalty. The members of the legislature understand that a vote of the people is required.

The article helps inform by providing positions held by Rep. Jennifer Williamson and Ms. Suver's associate Deputy DA Matthew Kemmy. But those are a minimal sampling of what needs to be stated and widely understood by voters before we can vote to repeal the law, established 35 years ago. Things have changed in the U.S. and in Oregon.

In May of this year, New Hampshire became the ninth state to repeal their death penalty since 2005. Add these states to the four states with moratoria and the number of states that have not had an execution in the past decade. During that same period of time, no state has renewed state-sanctioned executions. Only 8 states participated in the 25 executions in 2018, down from a high number of 99 in 1999. Of the 25 executions last year, Texas was responsible for 13 of them. Texas happens to be the state that Oregon copied for our death penalty laws and protocol in 1984.

While deputy prosecutors Suver and Kemmy are two voices among those who wish to use the "tough on crime" mantra, there are many other current district attorneys who do not personally favor a death penalty but follow it only because it is the current law. 19 of the 36 Oregon counties have never pursued a death case.

The strategy to lessen the number of sanctions to kill people for killing people was developed by a large cadre of legislators, former judges, defense attorneys, former prosecutors, former Oregon prison executives, law professors, faith leaders, academics, legal scholars, lobbyists and the board members of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, starting with meetings more than a year ago. SB 1013 is a well-crafted piece of legislation that corrects many of the ill-written laws of earlier legislatures.

To report more fully on this important discussion, more voices should be heard than just one House member and two deputy prosecutors. Murder victim family members, prison employees involved in executions, criminologists, former prosecutors, death penalty defense attorneys, district attorneys from large and small counties (heavy users and never users), mental health experts, stories of poor defendants and people of color along with average citizens with interest in criminal justice should all be heard.

Good start with the Stateman Journal article, but only a tiny sliver for a topic with an annual tax-payer burden of $29 million annually, for a sanction that has only been used (an execution) twice in the past 57 years.

Ron Steiner
Ron Steiner, OADP Advisory Council Member

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Paid in Full Oregon Brings Education and Transformation into Oregon Prisons

Washington County Senior Judge Tom Kohl spent the majority of his adult life opposed to the death penalty. His preferred sanction for aggravated murder has been life in prison without parole. His life-long core value was tested in 2006, when he lost his daughter, Megan, to a brutal murder.

"Killing people for killing people does not make sense to me. I believe in redemption and helping people prove that they are better than their worst acts" states Judge Kohl. As an important part of Tom Kohl's healing of his own deep sorrow of losing Megan was the face-to-face meeting with the man who murdered her and forgiving him. These heroic acts of both the perpetrator and the aggrieved is the ultimate in restorative justice.

Judge Kohl wrote his book "Losing Megan: Finding Hope, Comfort and Forgiveness in the Midst of Murder" about the murder of Megan and his experiences in drug court. The book opened the doors for him to begin speaking in prisons in Oregon and around the country, which eventually led to the idea of placing a fully accredited college program in prison. He retired from full time judging earlier this year.

"One of the things I never had was hatred and anger toward the person who murdered Megan. I was so full of sadness and sorrow that there wasn't room for anything else" says Judge Kohl.

Kohl, who as a judge in drug courts, learned that helping those addicted is the only way in their recovery to becoming contributing members of society. Education is a big part of that help, which has been the inspiration for the program he founded Paid In Full Oregon.

Paid in Full Oregon is a collaborative between his non-profit organization, Salem's Corban University and the Oregon Department of Corrections.

In a statement, Judge Kohl says "I support Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty as they work to repeal the death penalty in Oregon. Their work, like ours with PAID in Full, is 'smart on crime'. We have learned in America that 'tough on crime' does not work. This is now my life's work in memory of Megan and for the men and women who are earning a second chance".

While the goal of showing the film and the discussion that followed was educating viewers about death penalty issues, it was instrumental in three people joining the OADP Advisory Council. A fourth comes from the suggestion of board vice chair Lynn Strand.

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Does Better Prison Food Help Rehabilitate Inmates and Cut Recidivism?

Inspired by an article in Food Revolution Network magazine that asked the question "Does better prison food help rehabilitate inmates and cut recidivism?"

The short answer according to several international studies is "yes" and the information may provide constructive advice for Oregon. Since Oregon is one of the greatest food-producing states in America, there is more than a thread of good advice here for the Oregon Department of Corrections.

In the U.S. alone, we spend up too $182 billion annually on incarceration. Some of that money feeds inmates food with dubious nutritional value. Sad that we have so many people in prisons and exacerbated by information from the National Institute of Justice that nearly 70% of prisoners will be arrested for a new crime within three years of their release from prison.

Multiple studies are showing that a brain needs adequate nutrition in order to function well. Prison food is notoriously bad and lacking proper nutrition. This lack of nutrition can affect prisoners' physical and mental health and reduce their ability to contribute to communities when reintegrated back into society when released. Estimates show that 95% of Oregon prison inmates will eventually be released, becoming your neighbor someday.

Does it not make sense to look at the opportunities to improve rehabilitation, investigate new training opportunities in agriculture and provide budget savings for the Oregon prison system?

By providing more nutrient-dense meals to inmates, studies show that rates of cooperation and successful rehabilitation are possible. More than twenty years ago (1997), California's Victor Valley Medium Community Correctional Facility gave inmates the option of a high-nutrition vegan diet combined with study, occupational training and anger management.

In spite of dire predictions, 85% of the inmates in the state agreed to participate in the study. Outcomes were extraordinary! Those who chose the new diet became much more cooperative, avoided in-prison gang activity, smiled more, were fully racially integrated and attended classes eagerly. Similar studies were conducted and programs adopted around the world with uniform favorable results.

One key line from the Food Revolution Network article is... "Can you imagine what could happen if prisoners were fed an adequate diet? What if they also grew their own fresh food, learned how to prepare it in healthy, delicious ways, and were released with nutritional knowledge and with job and life skills they could use in the wider world?"

Make sense?

What does this have to do with the Oregon death penalty and your new neighbors coming out of Oregon prisons?

Oregon tax-payers are now spending in excess of $29 million annually to maintain a death penalty. The benefit to tax-payers is nil.

As an alternative, repeal the Oregon death penalty and save many of those millions of dollars. Convert some of those saving to programs that help the physical and mental health of the incarcerated, teach them usable and marketable skills in agriculture and food service; improve the behavior of inmates and save tax money.

Read and investigate this informative and inspiring article here.

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Women in the Oregon Legislature

2019-2020 Women in the Oregon Senate

Sen. Sara Gelser
Sen. Jackie Winters [1]
Sen. Kim Thatcher
Sen. Betsy Johnson
Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward

Sen. Ginny Burdick
Sen. Kathleen Taylor
Sen. Shemia Fagan
Sen. Denyc Boles
Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, approximately 2,117 women serve in the state legislatures in 2019. Women make up 28.7 percent of all state legislators nationwide. This represents a significant increase from the 2018 session's ratio of 25.3 percent, and the most women elected at one time.

Oregon, with 37 total members in the 2019 Legislature (41.1%), ranks third in the nation, behind Nevada, with 50.8% of its 63 members and Colorado, with 47% of its 100 members. Washington ranks just behind Oregon with 57 of its 167 members, 40.2%. While the numerical measure is one metric to note, how an increasing number of women legislators may impact the nature of the legislative process and bi-partisan nature of governing is of interest. To assess those factors, we asked some of the Oregon members for their views.

We also asked two of the first-time members, elected in the Nov. 2018 election asking them what to do they bring to the governing body of Oregon in terms of temperament and teamwork as a woman.

Representing House Dist. 15, which include Albany, Millersburg and Tangent, Rep. Shelly Boshart Davs, stated "Being a member of the Oregon Legislature is an honor that I take seriously. As a mother and business woman, there are many important issues that come before us that my experience helps in conversations surrounding women in the workplace. I feel heard here. I think women can contribute a lot to help solve problems working together with all members and across the aisle."

Representative Anna Williams stated, "Looking at the top rungs of Oregon's state government, it's easy to imagine a woman in any one of those seats because they're already mostly there. So, I don't feel restricted due to my gender. There is, however, still a significant representation gap with regard to people of color, so we still have work to do in achieving truly proportionate representation."

Rep. Williams represents House Dist. 52, from Hood River west to Gresham and Sandy. Before becoming a state legislator, she has worked as a social worker, teacher and been a leader in her community while raising her two children with her husband.

From a long - serving female member of the Senate, we asked Sen. Ginny Burdick, Senate Majority Leader, for a comment. "When I ran for office, I didn't focus on being a woman but rather on issues that I know women care about deeply: education, gun safety and the environment. I still approach my work that way. Our Legislature should reflect the diversity of our state and having more women is an important part of that."

A member of the House of Representatives for over a decade is Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, who represents 65,000 citizens in eastern Marion County and northern Linn County, offered this quote on women in the legislature. She stated, "As a representative, I stand on the shoulders of many men and women before me and strive to have shoulders worthy for others to stand on. In July 1987, as the first female patrol deputy for the Grant County Sheriff's office, the local newspaper asked what it was like to be in the role ... my response was 'I'm just here to do a job like anybody else.' In trying to walk that out every day, I want to honor all efforts to do a job well. Having more women presents adds a welcome dimension to conversations."

2019-2020 Women in the Oregon House of Representatives

Rep. Pam Marsh
Rep. Kim Wallan
Rep. Caddy McKeown
Rep. Julie Fahey
Rep. Nancy Nathanson

Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis
Rep. Sherrie Sprenger

Rep. Courtney Neron
Rep. Cheri Helt
Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon

Rep. Sheri Schouten
Rep. Susan McLain
Rep. Janeen Sollman
Rep. Tiffiny Mitchell
Rep. Margaret Doherty

Rep. Rachel Prusak
Rep. Andrea Salinas
Rep. Christine Drazan
Rep. Karin Power
Rep. Jennifer Williamson

Rep. Tawna Sanchez
Rep. Tina Kotek
Rep. Barbara Smith Warner
Rep. Carla Piluso
Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer

Rep. Janelle Bynum
Rep. Anna Williams

According to Rutgers University Center for American Women in Politics, percentages of women serving in State legislatures has increased steadily since 1971, increasing from 4.3% with only 344 members in all states to 2019 with 2,129 members in all 50 states. The jump in female members had the greatest percentage increase nationally, from 25.4% in 2018 to 28.9% national state average in 2019.

Part of the big jump in 2019 can be attributed in some measure by the estimate that 59% of the votes cast in the 2018 mid-term elections were women.

[1] Senator Jackie Winter passed away on May 29, 2019. Jackie Winters, first African-American Republican elected to Oregon legislature, dies at 82


On signing the new Alabama abortion law, on May 15th Governor Kay Ivey said, "Every life is a sacred gift from God".

On May 16th she overssaw the 7th execution of men on death row in her state since she took office.

With more women in the Alabama legislature, there is a chance that their legislative priorities would be different. While Oregon is #3 nationally, having 41.1% of members women, Alabama is fourth from the bottom at 15.7%.

Top 10 States

  • Nevada (52.4%)
  • Colorado (47.0%)
  • Oregon (41.1%)
  • Washington (40.8%)
  • Vermont (40.0%)
  • Arizona (38.9%)
  • Alaska (38.3%)
  • Maryland (38.3%)
  • Maine (38.2%)
  • Rhode Island (37.2%)

Bottom 10 States

  • Mississippi (13.8%)
  • West Virginia (14.2%)
  • Wyoming (15.6%)
  • Alabama (15.7%)
  • South Carolina (15.9%)
  • Tennessee (15.9%)
  • Louisiana (16.0%)
  • North Dakota (21.3%)
  • Oklahoma (21.5%)
  • Kentucky (22.5%)

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