The Multiple Offense Paradox

Michael Tonry (University of Minnesota – Twin Cities – School of Law) has posted Solving the Multiple Offense Paradox (More than One Crime: Sentencing the Multiple Offender (Jesper Ryberg, Julian V. Roberts & Jan de Keijser eds., Oxford University Press, 2017 Forthcoming)) on SSRN.

Here is the abstract:

Retributive and most mixed theories of punishment provide little guidance for sentencing people convicted of multiple offenses at one time — say 5 robberies, 5 sexual assaults, or 100 drug sales; or a robbery, a sexual assault, and 10 drug sales — or who were previously convicted. Judicial practice in Western countries is typically to discount punishments for multiple current convictions but, to different degrees, to punish successive convictions progressively more severely. Unpersuasive efforts have been made to justify those divergent patterns in ways that are reconcilable with retributive theories. What needs instead to be recognized is that principles derived from punishment theories cannot by themselves provide adequate complete justifications of adequate frames of reference for the complex social practice of punishment. Other principles relating to fairness, equality, and human dignity must be taken into account.

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