In United States v. Craig, No. 12-1262 (7th Cir. 2012), Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit offered a critique of lengthy sentences of elderly defendants.
The defendant had been found guilty of producing child pornography after repeated sexual assaults against a friend of his children. He had also obtained images of the child by threatening to kill her unless she e-mailed him sexually explicit pictures of herself. A 30-year sentence was ordered for one count, and three 20-year sentences were ordered to be severed concurrently but consecutively to the 30-year sentence. Thus, the 46-year-old defendant, was ordered to serve 50 years in prison.
In a concurring opinion, Judge Posner wrote "to remind the district judges of this circuit of the importance of careful consideration of the wisdom of imposing de facto life sentences." He also opined an argument that had the defendant known he might have faced fifty years in prison, he might have been deterred from committing it. "Probably he had no idea what his punishment was likely to be if he was caught, for the Justice Department does little to publicize punishment levels for the various federal crimes."
In conclusion, Posner offered:
I am merely suggesting that the 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.Judge Posner, who has served on the Seventh Circuit since 1981, turns 74 this Friday. Read about more of his opinions here.