Two-timing the justice system

Pedophile priest Paul Shanley was sentenced today for molesting a 6-year-old boy 20 years ago. He was convicted on two counts of raping a child, and sentenced to serve 12 to 15 years in prison for each count. But as seems hideously appropriate for a case like this, justice immediately demonstrated its perversity.

Now, this was in Massachusetts, so there’s a certain amount of liberal idiocy involved. Under Massachusetts laughingly-called “laws,” Shanley must serve 2/3 of the minimum before being eligible for parole. Also, he can get “credit” for up to one year for “good behavior.”

But the thing that really disgusted me was a legal concept that, sadly, isn’t confined to Massachusetts. To most people, if someone was given two sentences of 12 to 15 years, they’d expect that meant they’d be serving 24 to 30 years. But somewhere the legal system discovered this wonderful concept called “concurrent sentencing.”

Under concurrent sentencing, one serves all one’s sentences all at once. It doesn’t matter if you get convicted once or five hundred times, if you are serving 12-15 concurrently, you only serve 12-15 once.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned, maybe I’m stupid, maybe I’m just vindictive. But in Shanley’s case, he was convicted on two counts of raping a child, and sentenced to a minimum of 12 years on each count. I want at least 24 years from that son-of-a-bitch. He’s 74 now. If he drops dead tomorrow, I don’t want him taken out of that cell until 2029. And I find it beyond my comprehension that he theoretically could be a free man (albeit on parole for 10 more years) in seven years.


Update: Apparently I wasn’t clear enough above. Let me try again: one of my favorite aphorisms is “a difference that makes no difference is no difference.” I understand the concept of concurrent sentencing; what I have always failed to grasp was the reasoning behind it. For all intents and purposes, Shanley is serving a single sentence for a single conviction. The second conviction is utterly moot — it has no effect whatsoever. If that was going to happen, why even bother bringing people up on multiple charges, or convict them? They’re only going to serve the sentence of the single harshest…

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