Basically, There Is No Kill Like Overkillapplied to sentencing.
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 for 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.
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.
See also The Old Convict and Disproportionate Retribution.
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Anime and 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 sentences Free (who's functionally immortal, Nigh Invulnerable and was already serving an indefinite sentence when he was introduced and broken out of their jail) to multiple death sentences. Of course, he gets off lightly compared to Death the Kid (the son of the Grim Reaper himself) who 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.
The Daltons are serving a 4200-years hard labor sentence in the beginning of La Ballade des Daltons before escaping.
In another 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".
In Le Grain de la folieAchille Talon expects being sentenced to 745 years (with mitigating circumstances) for breaking in Surrender's base.
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.
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 manage to convince the judge to "decrease" his sentence to life.
In the last issue of the C.O.P.S. 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 charges, they're each looking at a minimum sentence of over 400 years.
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.
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 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 when he escape and came looking for revenge.
In Johnny Cash 's Cocaine Blues Willy Lee end 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.
Recorded And Stand-Up Comedy
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..."
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.
Sgt.Pepper, 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 voicemail, 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 such sentence as a record for the Liberty City crime society.
The titular 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.
At the end of the Looney Tunes short "Baby Buggy Bunny", after Baby Face Finster has been jailed, Bugs Bunny shows up and gives him this classic line;
Adventure Time: In the episode Too Young, The Earl of Lemongrab succeeds the throne from Princess Bubblegum after she was turned into a child. He's a tyrant who routinely gives these kinds of sentences to the candy citizens throughout the episode at the drop of a hat, and when Finn and Bubblegum pull a prank on him his line when sending them to the dungeon has become a meme by itself.
Darron Anderson, in Oklahoma, was sentenced to 11,250 years for burglary, robbery and rape after appealing.note His original sentence was 2200 years; after furthel appeals, 500 years were eventually cut because of Double Jeopardy.
Bobbie Joe Long was sentenced to 28 life sentences, 99 years sentence and one death sentence by Florida serial murders and rapes.
Jamal Zougal was sentenced to 50,000 years for the 2004 Madrid train bombings. note It's worth nothing that according to current Spanish law nobody should spend more than 40 consecutive years in jail for the same crime, so Zougal could be a free man by 2044, at the age of 71.
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.
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 by Wisconsin because he pleaded guilty and showed remorse.
Patrick Sykes was sentenced by the state of Illinois to 120 years for raping, poisoning and beating a nine-year-old girl to the point of being blind, mute and crippled.
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.
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 intial death sentence was overturnednote Alabama state law maintains that inmates become eligible for parole “after serving one-third of the sentence or 10 years, whichever is less.”.