"ONE MILLION YEEEAAARS!! DUNGEON!
Basically, There Is No Kill Like Overkill applied
Bob commits a crime (or better yet, a series of crimes). The jury convict him and thus The Judge
must determine an appropriate sentence.
The Judge decides to sentence to Bob 400+ years of prison or eleven life sentences, essentially rotting in a cell. Bob has just been served a Longer Than Life Sentence.
Such sentences are set sentences of a ridiculously huge amount of years (typically three digits) that, while theoretically has an end, can never be fully served by any ordinary person and could also include life terms in cases where such sentences are consecutive and/or the time before being eligible for parole is ludicrously long.
Sometimes it is not explained what the sentenced person did, just that they have X amount of years left that go beyond normal human life expectancy.
The reasons for such sentences are the desire for the judge to ensure a criminal never leaves prison alive or insuring against the eventuality of an acquittal.
Such sentences can be enabled by the ability of consecutive sentencing or the fact that the upper limits to prison terms are very high or even nonexistent in the concerned jurisdiction. In real life, there's also the consideration that a criminal who was convicted of multiple crimes might have some but not all of those convictions overturned on appeal, shortening his overall sentence but still leaving him with a substantial amount of jail time left to serve. Another possible consideration is that if an extremely long sentence can prevent a criminal from becoming eligible for parole in jurisdictions where the rules require him to serve a given fraction of the sentence first.
Note also that 'natural life' means "life expectancy." This means that if Alice serves her whole sentence in the United States without any good behavior time or parole, she will be released when she is 78 (the average female life expectancy in that country.) So, giving multiple life sentences really does have a meaning sometimes.
This trope can be used by an author as a manner to indicate that a judge is a Hanging Judge
or a jurisdiction is ruthless toward criminals, and could also show to the readers and/or other characters that this criminal is truly hardcore and dangerous.
A subtrope of In It For Life
. See also The Old Convict
and Disproportionate Retribution
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Anime & Manga
- All three protagonists of the cyberpunk anime Cyber City Oedo 808 are cons serving astronomical sentences on a prison satellite, to the tune of 300 years or more. For duty served, they get a few years of that sentence taken off, though if they fuck up a job or piss off Hasegawa, the warden, time gets added to their sentences — if he doesn't just pop their collars, that is.
- Taken to its logical conclusion in Soul Eater when the witches' Kangaroo Court can give someone multiple death sentences. Kim, Risa, and Arisa just get one each, but the latter gets three more for complaining. Eruka got five. Free (who has Complete Immortality and was already serving an indefinite sentence when he was introduced and broken out of their jail) gets 1000. Death the Kid (the son of the Grim Reaper himself), they sentence to a million death penalties.
- Sosuke Aizen in Bleach is given a 20,000 year sentence for his crimes as the Big Bad. Even with the incredibly long lifespan of shinigami, this is still far longer than any shinigami has been known to be alive for (Yamamoto is at least 2,100 years old, though his true age is unknown). However, thanks to Aizen being immortal, he'll actually be able to serve the entire term of his sentence.
- Worth noting that he received 10,000 year sentence for crimes he committed and then extra 10,000 years for bickering with Central 46 that were the guys who judged him. As of now, Aizen got out anyway after serving less than 2 years.
- In one of his concert films Richard Pryor riffed on a convict he met who was serving triple life.
How do you do triple life? That means if he die, and come back, he gotta go to the penitentiary! "Fuck kindergarten, kid, you comin' with us..."
- Pigmeat Markham as a judge starts off "The Trial" (b-side of his "Here Comes The Judge") by giving himself six months.
Judge: If I'm gonna do six months, Mr. District Attorney, you've got a darned good idea many you're gonna do!
- In a Lucky Luke comic, an escaped convict lampshades this when his hostage tells him that if he turns back now, he'll get a lighter sentence. The convict responds with "I can't see much of a difference between being sentenced to 236 or 295 years in prison".
- This trope is a running joke in Lucky Luke comics. René Goscinny , with his signature brand of humor, would often have characters talking about such sentences as if they made perfect sense.
- Ach!lle Talon: In Le Grain de la folie, Achille Talon expects being sentenced to 745 years (with mitigating circumstances) for breaking in Surrender's base.
- Shazam: Captain Marvel, Jr. had a foe called Greybeard. As a young man, he was sentenced to 99 years in prison, to which he sarcastically told the judge how considerate he was to not make it a life sentence. However, he served out his entire sentence and, once free, began a crime spree based on the theme of old age.
- In the last issue of the COPS comic, the COPS finally get an excuse to bring in Big Boss and his gang. After the crooks are in custody, they're informed of the charges against them — all told, if convicted on all counts, they're each looking at a minimum sentence of over 400 years. The comic doesn't address it, but Nightmare, being more machine than man, could potentially live to serve that term in its entirety.
- Even before he became the Spider-Man villain Carnage, Cletus Cassidy was a Serial Killer who had received eleven consecutive life sentences. (And when he got angry at his cellmate Eddie Brock, he figured he'd "make it an even dozen" by killing him too, as he was smart enough to realize his chances of gaining a release via legal means was pretty much nonexistent.) Unfortunately, that was when the Venom symbiote re-bonded with Brock and he escaped, leaving behind a young symbiote that bonded with Cassidy.
- As alluded to in the explanatory section, Wade from U.S. Acres steps on a rake, sending him into a musical number, followed by a short trial sentencing him to 9999 years in prison.
- In a Bizarro strip, an extremely old suspect is told by his lawyer that he was scheduled to receive 80 years in jail, but the lawyer managed to convince the judge to "decrease" his sentence to life.
Films — Animation
- The title character of Megamind was sentenced to 88 consecutive life sentences for his crimes against humanity and Metro City. Largely meaningless, since he's able to waltz out the front door of his Cardboard Prison, and back into his functional laboratory cum lair.
- The Daltons are serving a 4200-years hard labor sentence in the beginning of La Ballade des Dalton before escaping.
Films — Live-Action
- In Malcolm X the main character's friend, Shorty, faints because he think he will be victim of this trope.
- In Sky High, there's a passing mention that Baron Battle had received a quadruple life sentence, with no chance of parole until after the third.
- The impetus of Yellowbeard is the fact the Royal Navy wanted to increase the eponymous character's sentence of 140 years so that he escape and recovers his Booty.
- At the end of Cube Zero, Wynn gets two more life sentences added to his existing sentence.
- In the opening scenes of The Shawshank Redemption, Andy is painted as a sociopathically cold blooded and remorseless killer by the prosecutor, and the judge comes to agree with this statement throughout the trial due to Andy's demeanor and seeming lack of emotion, so he sentences Andy to consecutive two life sentences, one for each of the people Andy killed. Except Andy really is innocent, something which isn't confirmed until about 2/3 of the way through the movie.
- Officer Shrift from The Phantom Tollbooth regularly sentences offenders to prison terms of millions of years, merely because he can. Subverted in that he's not good at keeping track of time and thus assumes that anyone who escapes his city's Cardboard Prison has served out his or her time. (Someone else in the prison suggests he only does it as a joke.)
- In Jack Blank, the Calculans sentence the Space Pirate Solomon Roka to 942 years in prison... for operating without a license. The length of the Calculan year isn't known, but 942 is still a lot of them.
- In Artemis Fowl Mulch Diggums got a total of 300 years for his burglaries against "Mudmen"; subverted as fairies live very long.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Justice", Rimmer gets sentenced to ten thousand years imprisonment. Subverted as he is expected to be able to serve his sentence and be released at the end since he is a hologram. Of course as always Status Quo Is God and the Reset Button is hit by the episode end.
- In Oz, Chris Keller is sentenced to 88 years with parole accessible in 50 before being sentenced to death, sentence overturned eventually.
- Subverted with Omar White: while he is sentenced to 75 years, he's up for parole in 20.
- Grimm: In "Game Ogre", Stark was serving a 300 year prison sentence before he escaped and came looking for revenge.
- In Doctor Who, River Song is sentenced to twelve thousand life sentences for killing the Doctor.
- In the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Hardwired", the leader of a pedophile rights group who convinced a man to rape his stepson is sentenced to ten years for accessory to rape, plus two years for every image of child pornography on his laptop, for a total of 3000 years.
- in "Runaways" (S2E16), Alex Cabot threatens Lorna Frankel with a total prison sentence of 715 years for her role in managing a pornographic ring employing runaways - seven years each - compounded by the fact one of them, a 14-years-old named Gina Lang, died from an overdose.
- In Johnny Cash 's Cocaine Blues Willy Lee ended up sentenced, for murdering his girlfriend, to:
99 years in the Folsom pen
99 years underneath that ground
- This is pretty much the whole point of "100 Years" by Plies regarding a corrupted justice system giving black people ridiculously long life sentences.
Pussy ass cracker give a nigga a hundred years
Have ya mama leavin' out the courtroom in tears
Crackers don't love to have a nigga breathin' for real
Take a nigga life from him they don't know how it feel.
- The title character in Bruce Springsteen's "Johnny 99" is sentenced to "ninety-eight and a year". And begs the judge to sentence him to death instead.
- In the song "99 to Life" by Social Distortion, the narrator is given a sentence of 99 years to life for the crime of stabbing his girlfriend to death.
- The curse inflicted upon Lord Soth in the Dragonlance setting was a variation. He neglected to attempt to stop what would cause the Cataclysm, and instead confronted his wife over untrue claims of infidelity; as a result, whole cities were destroyed and thousands of innocents perished. His wife died right before it happened, and cursed him with her final words, saying, "you shall live the lifetime of every soul that you have caused death today". The gods delivered this curse, turning him into a death knight. Exactly how long this astronomically-long sentence actually is has never been calculated, but unlike most examples, Soth's condition may mean having to serve the entire sentence in his horrid, monstrous form.
- In GURPS Technomancer, the state of Louisiana allows for sentences of "death plus hard labor." This means a death sentence, followed by being zombified and put on a chain gang.
- Can happen in Liberal Crime Squad:
, you are sentenced to 31695 consecutive life terms in prison.
- Trauma Team: After the Cumberland incident, CR-S01 was arrested and recieved a 250-year life sentence.
- Grand Theft Auto IV: After she's arrested and judged, Elizabeta Torres is sentenced to 300 years of imprisonment for thirty charges (ten years each) of cocaine distribution. Lampshaded by her voice mail, where she says she can't answer to the messages before the end of her prison sentence, and also by The Liberty Tree which mentions the sentence as a record for the Liberty City crime society.
- The Stanley Parable: Attempting to activate sv_cheats in the console causes the narrator to take you away into a Serious Room where he locks you away for trillions of years. Do it again, and he increases your sentence to infinity years note .
- In Freedom Wars, the player character is a convict who was sentenced to a prison sentence of one million years on the day they were born.
- "99 years on the hard rock pile" used to be a common jail sentence in the Old West.
- Guinness World Records lists one Chamoy Thipyaso as the world record holder for the longest prison sentence ever received by a single person - in 1989, she received a sentence of 141,078 years in jail in Thailand for defrauding thousands of people for millions of dollars in a giant pyramid scheme.
- Darron Anderson, in Oklahoma, was sentenced to 11,250 years for burglary, robbery and rape after appealing.note
- Bobbie Joe Long was sentenced to 28 life sentences, 99 years sentence and one death sentence by Florida for serial murders and rapes.
- James Earl Ray got a 99-years sentence for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
- Jamal Zougal was sentenced to 50,000 years for the 2004 Madrid train bombings. note
- Ronald DeFeo, Jr., perpetrator of the so-called Amityville killings, was sentenced to six consecutive sentences of 25 years to life, hence a minimum of 150 years.
- Just before the release of Halo 3, several Xbox 360 players managed to download an almost complete pirate of the game. Microsoft responded by banning the consoles with illegal copies from Xbox Live until December 31st, 9999.
- In a similar vein, the few senior mods in the Kingdom of Loathing who can issue chat bans of arbitrary length (as opposed to most mods, who can only ban players based on the number of previous infractions), can't actually ban people "forever". They can, however, ban them for 99,999,999,999 hours, or about 11 million years.
- Bernard Madoff, the infamous Ponzi scheme mastermind, was sentenced to 150 years in prison in 2009 after pleading guilty to eleven counts, including securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, making false statements, and perjury, the maximum sentence allowed (the judge rejected his lawyer's plea of only seven years due to his age.)
- Parodied with serial rapist David Demone Reel, sentenced to 100 years instead of 120 in Wisconsin because he pleaded guilty and showed remorse.
- Patrick Sykes was sentenced in Illinois to 120 years for raping, poisoning and beating a nine-year-old girl to the point of being blind, mute and crippled.
- In 2013, Ariel Castro, of Ohio, was sentenced to life plus 1000 years after pleading guilty to 937 charges related to the kidnapping of three women. He was found dead in his cell a month later, an apparent case of suicide.
- Kristofor Hans got sentenced in Montana to 206 years for a school shooting: 100 years for murder, 100 other years for attempted murder and two sentences of three years for using weapons during the commission of a felony.
- Sholam Weiss got sentenced by the federal government to 845 years in absentia for fraud and is eligible for release on November 23, 2754.
- In 1972 Spain, in the Gabriel Granados trial, the prosecutor asked for a 384,912 year sentence, or nine years for each letter he didn’t delivernote .
- Dudley Wayne Kyzer got sentenced by Alabama to two life sentences plus 10,000 years for murdering his wife, his mother-in-law, and another man, after his initial death sentence was overturnednote .
- Serial rapist Dr. Edward Franklin Jackson Jr. was sentenced in Ohio to 191 to 665 yearsnote .
- Richard Speck was sentenced to death for eight murders in Chicago, but the Supreme Court overturned his death penalty. He ended up receiving 8 consecutive sentences of 50 to 150 years, or 400 to 1200 years behind bars. He died in prison.
- James "Whitey" Bulger, infamous mob boss of the Winter Hill Gang in Boston, was convicted of numerous crimes and sentences to two life sentences and five years for his crimes.
- Joseph Amaya, 19, was sentenced by California to 100 years to life for raping and beating a woman in a store.
- In 1969, two Irani conmen were sentenced to one year for each of their victims, thus 7109 years.
- Mark Anthony Beecham was sentenced in Alabama to 624 years for crimes ranging from kidnapping and rape all the way down to bail jumping.
- This is often used as a tactic by countries where the death penalty doesn't exist: Since they can't condemn anyone to a death sentence, they give him a longer than life sentence. In Brazil, for example, Roger Abdelmassih, a serial rapist, was condemned to nearly 300 years in prison.
- Which is kinda pointless, as, per Brazilian law, no criminal can stay in jail for more than 30 years. The sentence is still recorded with full lenght, but the convict walks in 30 years at most.