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. 

prison release - Garrett White/Collins
Photo credit: Garrett White/Collins

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

  • Letter with 3 Exhibits

    The letter Governor Brown sent to Senate President Peter Courtney and Speaker of the House Tina Kotek

  • Brief Summary

    Brief Summary of the Governor’s report provided to the full Legislative Assembly

  • Measure 11

    The purpose and effectiveness of Measure 11

  • Pubic Record Requests

    Filed by Common Sense for Oregon with the Governor's Office and Oregon Department of Corrections

  • Clemency Application

    The majority of released felons did not submit a clemency application to Governor Brown

  • Documentation

    Documentation indicates that felons were tested for Covid-19 before they were released but not required to be vaccinated

Missives sent to members of the Oregon Legislature

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