consecutive sentence | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

A consecutive sentence is a prison term for two or more offenses to be served one after the other.

Contrast with Concurrent Sentence.

A consecutive sentence is a term used in the criminal justice system to describe a specific type of punishment for individuals who have committed multiple crimes. Instead of serving their sentences concurrently (at the same time), a judge may order the offender to serve their sentences consecutively (one after the other).

When an offender is given a consecutive sentence, they must serve one sentence in its entirety before beginning to serve the next. For example, if an offender is convicted of two crimes and sentenced to five years for each offense, a consecutive sentence would require them to serve a total of ten years in prison.

The decision to impose such a sentence is typically based on the severity of the crimes committed and the offender’s criminal history. If an offender poses a significant threat to society or has a history of repeat offenses, the judge may decide that consecutive sentences are necessary to ensure that the offender is adequately punished and kept off the streets for a longer period of time.

However, it’s important to note that consecutive sentences can also be imposed for less serious offenses. In some cases, the judge may believe that consecutive sentences are necessary to send a message to the offender and deter them from committing future crimes.

There are several potential downsides to such sentences. For one, they can result in much longer prison terms for offenders, which can be emotionally and psychologically damaging. Additionally, they can put a significant strain on the criminal justice system, as they result in more people being incarcerated for longer periods of time.

Furthermore, they can make it more difficult for offenders to rehabilitate and reintegrate into society. If an offender is sentenced to many years in prison, it can be difficult for them to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to function effectively in the outside world. This can increase their likelihood of committing future crimes and can ultimately make them a greater threat to society.

In some cases, judges may choose to impose a combination of consecutive and concurrent sentences. For example, an offender may be given a concurrent sentence for less serious offenses, while more serious offenses may result in consecutive sentences.

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Last Modified: 04/20/2023

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