Indeterminate Sentencing, Utah
Most people assume that a judge will sentence an offender to a specific, determinate sentence such as “twelve years in the state prison.” An offender would then know exactly how much time they were going to serve and when they would be released. Utah does not do that.
Under Utah law, judges are required to impose a sentence, depending on the crime committed, with a specified range of years in prison. At that point, the exact length of the sentence — how long someone remains behind bars — is up to the Utah State Board of Pardons and Parole. This is referred to as “indeterminate sentencing.”
Once a person is sentenced to serve time in the state prison, Utah’s five-member board of pardons and parole inherits “jurisdiction” over the defendant. The board has, at that time, the sentencing power regarding inmates. They determine the length of stay based on a variety of factors—the type of crime, the nature of any victims, whether the inmate shows remorse, whether his or her behavior in prison is positive, the potential for rehabilitation, etc. The victims’ opinions are also evaluated by the board.
Inmates almost universally dislike this system. That is entirely understandable as they have no idea when their release date will be until decisions are made by the Board. It is important that you have a thorough discussion of indeterminate sentencing with your attorney from Pacific Legal Group.