This is a peculiarity of American sentencing, and it happens because so often the law provides for very early release. If the judge wants to make sure the convict never gets out, he or she has to get inventive!
You also get it normally where there are multiple crimes, so there are multiple sentences and they add...
Best answer: This is a peculiarity of American sentencing, and it happens because so often the law provides for very early release. If the judge wants to make sure the convict never gets out, he or she has to get inventive!
You also get it normally where there are multiple crimes, so there are multiple sentences and they add up to something that looks ridiculous. If the convict is found innocent of one on appeal, that only strikes out one sentence so he'll still "do the time" on the rest. And giving each crime its own sentence gives each victim their proper respect. In the case of a multiple killer, each family has justice for their family member. The judge mentioned each victim and gave a sentence just for them.
For example, consider Dennis Rader, the BTK killer in Kansas. At the time, Kansas had no death penalty, and a life sentence in Kansas always means the chance of parole after 15 years, unless the crime is so heinous that the judge can increase that minimum. There is no "life without parole". So how does the judge ensure that this monster dies behind bars? There were ten murders, so the judge gave ten life sentences. He also took advantage of the last murder being particularly nasty (Rader slowly tortured her) to say it should be a minimum of 40 years, not 15. And he ordered the sentences to be consecutive, not concurrent, so they're served one after the other. (9 x 15) + 40 = 175 years. That ought to do it!
Of course if you have a system where sentences mean what they say, there's no need for this mathematical jiggery-pokery. I'm British and we do it fairly simply - well, I think so. You can have a life sentence, and that can be with a minimum term before considering parole, or with a whole life term (same thing as life without parole). If it's with a minimum term, that's entirely up to the judge to decide and that's what it will be.
If it's not a life sentence, it's a determinate sentence - that is to say, it's a fixed length. There is automatic release after half of it, the other half is served on probation, and of course judges and magistrates know that, so they know exactly what the sentence will mean. The one small exception is that a prisoner (other than a sex offender) can be released on electronic tag up to 135 days before the halfway point, though this has never been given to anyone with a sentence of over 4 years. Apart from that little tweak, you KNOW what the sentence is and prisons can't mess with it.
So you could say we have WYSIWYG sentencing. Or WTJSIWYG - what the judge says is what you get. No need for loony-sounding sentences.
2 days ago