General Question

chicklit's avatar

Why do judges give some criminals ridiculously long jail terms?

Asked by chicklit (215 points ) June 3rd, 2011

I was watching the news the other day and I saw that a judge sentenced a man to 431 years in jail. I’ve never comprehended that; why don’t judges just sentence a life term? I highly doubt they’re going to keep the dead, decaying body in its cell. Right? How did these sentences originate?

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14 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

The crime involved may not have been punishable by a life sentence. Therefore, multiple charges are added up and presented as the total aggregate years for the sentencing on all counts and crimes. They can’t declare a life sentence, technically, if the law does not allow for a life sentence for any of the individual charges, even if when you add them up it’s clear that it’s life.

Plus…it sends a pretty significant message.

ragingloli's avatar

They probably take the single sentences of each offence and then add them together, ignoring any common sense.
That is what happens when you let accountants do “justice”.
In Germany, when it is shown during trial that the accused is an especially big danger to society, the judge has the option to order an indefinite detention after the end of the actual jail term, which we call “Sicherungsverwahrung”.
That might be an option the US could look into.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

What also happens is the long sentence is 85 years; with good time and early release to probation of 18 years. They don’t want the individual to get out of jail—ever.

marinelife's avatar

Isn’t it better to give the years if lifespans were able to be technically enhanced?

Tropical_Willie's avatar

The laws may not allow a “life” sentence, but sentence is in years. That is the way several laws are written “sentence in years”. The judge can’t “throw the book at them” for life if the sentence by statue is in years

Hibernate's avatar

Maybe in a bad mood / maybe they do no like the way they look etc

bunch of reasons

creative1's avatar

The problem is if they don’t give the ridulous then they will be out on parol in a few years because thats how the system works so take advantage and nail the book when you can so the ones who do the crime actually have to stay in jail.

zenvelo's avatar

In California the length of the sentence determines eligibility to apply for parole. Life sentences are legally considered in California to be equivalent to 30 years for purposes of parole, and parole eligibility begins after ⅓rd of the sentence. That’s why Sirhan Sirhan and Charles Manson have had parole hearings every three years since the 1980s.

California even specified “Life Without Parole” as an alternative to the death penalty for death penalty eligible convictions. The 431 years means Philip Garrido will never be eligible for parole.

john65pennington's avatar

There is a reason for the long sentencing. The judge, jury and victims want to make sure this person cannot be paroled and will die in prison.

I arrested a burglar that broke into 300 plus houses over a two year period. He readily admitted to the crimes and even directed me to most of the homes he had burglarized. Instead of having a trial on all 300, we chose five of the admitted crimes and he has found guilty on these five. The agreement was that he would served the max. prison time for the five and the remaining would be retired. Those five cases gave him15 years on each for a total of 45 years to serve. He will be about 80, when he has seved all his time.

WestRiverrat's avatar

Because in a lot of states a life sentence does not mean life. I know a man that was sentenced to 2 consecutive life sentences for kidnapping and killing someone, he was out in 12 years due to good behaviour and parole guidelines.

incendiary_dan's avatar

Among many other points she makes, Michelle Alexander shows pretty conclusively in her book “The New Jim Crow” that not only are black males routinely given harsher sentences than their white counterparts in the same circumstances, but that many crimes are punished more severely that are more commonly committed by blacks (crack possession being punished 10x as much as powdered cocaine, despite both being just as dangerous). Probably not exactly what you’re looking for, but it’s an example of outrageous sentences.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

It’s exactly what @iamthemob said. And the fact that some assholes deserve a long enough sentence where they can never be eligible for parole.

I, for one, think if someone has done something heinous enough to warrant a life sentence or a sentence that will never allow for parole, they should just be killed by lethal injection. It would save the governement and the tax payers all those years of paying for the fucker to get three squares a day and access to the gym, library and other pleasurable activities.

Buttonstc's avatar

I have no problem at all with those sociopaths who have repeatedly committed violent crimes (murder, rape, repeated child molesters) being given enough time to take them permanently out of civilized society. There have been far too many instances of ridiculously inadequate sentence for predators who when released, don’t waste much time before they’ve killed maimed. It’s just not possible to rehabilitate everyone because some of those who repeatedly commit violence against others have zero desire to change.

@dan

On the other hand, you do have a point about the disproportionate treatment based upon race. I believe that all of those arrested for drug offenses should be required to spend their incarceration time in a drug rehab program. Unlike VIOLENT repeat offenders, many druggies can be helped and you never know how many go-rounds of rehab it takes before the “light bulb comes on”.

Since they’re in there anyhow, what better use for the time. Why not require them to be in a structured drug rehab program run by professionals specializing in treating addicts? It would be money well spent.

mattbrowne's avatar

This only exists in certain countries. Why? To send a message.

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