Judge Posner argues against knee-jerk ‘superlong’ sentences

Judge Richard Posner, famous for his scholarship on law and economics, is among the most well-known jurists in the nation. According to Debra Cassens Weiss with the ABA Journal, Posner recently weighed in on the wisdom of imposing a “de facto” life sentence – or what you could call a “knee-jerk” sentencing decision in a tough case involving child pornography and the 46-year-old defendant.

The defendant had been sentenced to 50 years in prison, meaning that he would grow to be quite elderly behind bars.

In his concurring opinion, Posner wrote:

“[T]he cost of imprisonment of very elderly prisoners, the likelihood of recidivism by them, and the modest incremental deterrent effect of substituting a superlong sentence for a merely very long sentence, should figure in the judge’s sentencing decision.”

In other words, while Posner appeared to agree with his colleagues that the defendant’s appeal be dismissed, he made an effort to suggest that a shorter sentence, even for an “unsympathetic” defendant (the man took pictures of his sexual contact with an 11-year-old girl), might make sense in light of the big picture.

Source: Posner Advises Judges to Consider Cost of Imprisoning Elderly When Imposing a ‘Superlong Sentence’