I'm a little taken aback by the sentence handed down to a Texas man convicted of child abuse. James Kevin Pope drew sentences for multiple offenses totaling 4,060 years in prison, to be served consecutively, and a fine of $430,000.
The lengthy sentence includes the maximum life sentence for each of the sexual assaults and 20 years for each sexual performance case. The fine is also the maximum for these crimes.
Pope will be eligible for parole in the year 3209, according to Texas law.
"This sentence sends a strong message that the citizens of Parker County will not tolerate these types of sex crimes," said District Attorney Don Schnebly.
I'm not so sure about that message. In the first place, the years of the sentence are silly. We know that no human being is going to live long enough to complete the sentence - so why pass it? Why not simply have a system that says, "You're going to jail for the rest of your life, and you're going to die behind bars"? Or, if a fixed term has to be imposed, why not make it, say, 100 years?
As for the fine, that's risible. He's behind bars, for Heaven's sake! There's no way he's going to be able to earn money to pay the fine - so why impose it?
I'm not sure that passing sentences of such extraordinary length really sends any worthwhile message at all, except that those passing them either can't see reality staring them in the face, or perhaps that they're so darn vengeful that they don't care! I know that many in other countries read about such sentences and laugh. They think it silly, even stupid, to pass them when there's no possibility whatsoever that they can be fulfilled.
What do you think, readers? Wouldn't it be more sensible to pass a law that if the total sentences for a series of crimes add up to more than, say, 70 or 80 years, the sentence should automatically become one of "imprisonment for the term of the offender's natural life"? I'll be interested to read your responses.