Public Safety & Defense of Citizens
Advocating for victim’s rights, reforms to the foster system, and mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes
Early Release of 985 Convicted Felons
Clemency actions by the Governor are a rare exercise of executive power reserved for unique circumstances and this has been the case in Oregon until 2020. From the time Governor Kate Brown took office in February 2015, through June 2019, 1,033 applications for clemency were submitted to her. Of those, she granted 11 pardons and four commutations. Governor Brown’s use of her clemency power changed dramatically in 2020.
On June 25th, 2021, Governor Brown presented a highly unusual ‘report’ via a letter with three exhibits to Senate President Peter Courtney and Speaker of the House Tina Kotek. In the letter, Governor Brown explained that she had, since March 2020, granted 33 pardons, 32 commutations, and one reprieve. She also reported that she had, because of the state of emergency she declared due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, commuted the sentences of an additional 912 felons. She provided only the name, crime committed, sentence and release date for all 912 felons, disregarding the constitutional and statutory requirements for process, reporting and transparency. Further, Governor Brown reported in her letter that she also cut 41 convicted felons’ sentences short by a full 12 months “in recognition of the extraordinary efforts made by (the felons) who were deployed to fight the historic wildfires that ravaged the state around Labor Day 2020.” The report was scant on information about the 41 felons released due to their firefighting work. Only a very Brief Summary of this report was provided by the Governor to the full Legislative Assembly.
Common Sense for Oregon founder and President, Kevin Mannix, sent several missives directly to the individual members of the Oregon Legislature, drawing attention to the en mass release of felons in a misapplication of clemency power, and to the purpose and effectiveness of Measure 11 since it was passed by the voters in November of 1994. The en mass release of felons before completion of duly secured sentences undermines Measure 11 mandatory minimum sentences for the 16 most violent crimes.
Common Sense for Oregon filed comprehensive public records requests with the Governor’s Office and the Oregon Department of Corrections in August, 2021. While we await a full response to our detailed requests, we can confidently report that most, if not all, of the 912 and 41 felons released, never submitted a clemency application to Governor Brown. Also, documentation indicates that felons were not required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of release into communities across Oregon.
Common Sense for Oregon awaits requested information regarding the housing and work plans for the nearly 1,000 felons that were released before the completion of their sentences.
A primary objective of Common Sense for Oregon is to inform and educate all Oregonians with the hope that our efforts will lead to positive action and change that make sense for our local communities. To that end, Common Sense for Oregon prepared a detailed White Paper on Clemency Powers and distributed it to Oregon’s District Attorneys and Sheriffs, many of whom object to abuse of clemency power. We provided our White Paper to the Governor’s legal staff as well.
A closer look at the documents referenced above
Missives sent to members of the Oregon Legislature
Dear Senators and Representatives,
If you saw a headline, “10 Convicted Murderers Escape From Oregon Prisons,” I would hope you would take notice.
Well, since March 1, 2020, Oregon Governor Kate Brown has granted early release from prison to 10 convicted murderers. She also has granted early release from prison to 975 other convicted felons.
As to reductions of prison sentences, ORS 144.660 requires: “The Governor shall report to the Legislative Assembly in the manner provided in ORS 192.245” commutations or pardons granted by the Governor.
Oregon law requires you receive “an executive summary of no more than two pages sent to every member of the Legislative Assembly by electronic mail” whenever a law requires a written report be submitted to the Legislative Assembly. ORS 192.245 (1).
On June 25, 2021 the Governor reported to the President of Senate and the Speaker of House as to the release of 985 convicted felons from Oregon prisons. This report was delivered a day before the adjournment of the Legislative Session. Common Sense For Oregon received a copy of this report because we had pending, since March, a public records request to the Governor’s Office.
So, we respectfully ask: Were members of the Legislative Assembly sent an executive summary of this required report?
In case you did not receive such a summary, our Common Sense For Oregon staff have reviewed the Governor’s report. We have prepared our own summary, and it is attached.
But to give you the complete picture as to this massive assault on truth in sentencing, we have also attached a media release which provides my own comments. We have also attached the Governor’s entire report to the Speaker of the House and the Senate President.
If you take a look at ORS 144.660, every commutation report also requires:
“The report shall include, but not limited to the reason for granting the reprieve, commutation or pardon, the name of the applicant, the crime of which the applicant was convicted, the sentence and its date, statements by the victim of the crime or any member of the victim’s immediate family… a statement by the district attorney where the conviction was had, photos of the victim, the autopsy report, if applicable, and the date of the commutation, pardon or reprieve.”
A good deal of this information is not included in the Governor’s report to Senate President and Speaker of the House.
I hope that some members of the Legislative Assembly will inquire further into these matters and at least demand additional explanation by the Governor.
Kevin L. Mannix, President
Common Sense for Oregon
2007 State St.
Salem, OR, 97301