Oregon’s governor said she was commuting the sentences of all 17 inmates in the state awaiting execution.
Kate Brown announced that their death sentences will be commuted to life without parole, likely her last exercise of executive pardons as governor, according to NBC News.
In a statement, she criticized the death penalty, saying it “cannot and has never been administered fairly and justly”.
“I have long believed that killing life does not advance justice and that states should not execute people – even if horrific crimes put them in jail,” Ms Brown said.
“Unlike my previous commutations for those who have demonstrated extraordinary growth and recovery, this commutation is not based on any rehabilitation efforts of death row inmates.
“Rather, it reflects an acknowledgment that the death penalty is immoral”.
She said the commutation is consistent with a moratorium on executions initiated by Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber in 2011.
She added: “I also recognize the pain and uncertainty victims experience as they wait decades while individuals sit on death row – especially in states with moratoriums – with no resolution.
“I hope this reduced sentence will bring us closer to a final outcome in these cases.”
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Last year, Virginia became the latest state to legislate to repeal the practice, opting instead for life in prison without the possibility of parole, data from the National Conference of State Legislatures showed.
The death penalty was first legalized in Oregon in the 19th century, but has since been abolished and reinstated three times. It was recently restored in 1984 and has since carried out two executions, in September 1996 and May 1997.
Ms Brown is a limited-term Democrat who took office in 2015 and will be succeeded by Democrat Tina Kotek in January. She also had the highest disapproval rate of any governor in the country this year.
The order took effect Wednesday.