In the February 2023 edition of Discussions with DPIC, former Oregon Superintendent of Prisons Frank Thompson speaks with DPIC Managing Director Anne Holsinger about how his experiences as a corrections officer—as well as being a murder victim’s family member—have affected his views on capital punishment. Thompson oversaw the only two executions performed in Oregon in the past 50 years and was responsible for developing the execution protocol. He said the process of performing executions created “an additional group of victims” among the prison staff. Seeing the stress it caused him and his colleagues eventually led Thompson to oppose the death penalty. Listen to the episode here.

Thompson brings a thorough understanding of capital punishment and firsthand experience with the system. He notes that the death penalty is “prohibitively costly,” that it “in all probability kills innocent people,” and that “poor people, minorities, and mentally ill people are disproportionately represented on death row.”

When Oregon Governor Kate Brown announced in December 2022 that she was commuting the sentences of all 17 people on the state’s death row, Thompson issued a statement praising her decision and asking to be present for the dismantling of the execution chamber. He called the death chamber “a relic of the past,” comparing it to “the statues representing antebellum politics in the South.” “I helped to construct this relic of the past,” he said, “and I think it only appropriate to have me present to help destroy it.”


Discussions with DPIC pod­cast, Former Prison Superintendent Frank Thompson on How Executions Affect Corrections Officers, Death Penalty Information Center, February 212023.