The ACLU of Utah created this informational document to explain how the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole (BOP) functions, and the role the Board plays in determining how long each state inmate remains in state custody. 

This information is intended for inmates, their loved ones, and members of the general public.

Utah’s indeterminate sentencing system affords the BOP with broad discretion to make determinations about an inmate’s actual length of stay in the custody of the Utah Department of Corrections, as well as the conditions of release and parole. While the State does provide some sentencing guidelines (through the Utah Sentencing Commission), the BOP is allowed to make decisions outside those guidelines, at any time, on a case-by-case basis. This means that inmates who have similar court dispositions (were convicted of similar crimes, with similar sentencing guidelines) may receive very different decisions from the BOP regarding release, rehearings, parole requirements and overall length of stay. 

The BOP is a state agency, independent of the Department of Corrections. There are five official board members, appointed by the Governor, who have ultimate authority over parole and pardon determinations. Additionally, the BOP employs ten hearing officers, who are not board members, but who conduct parole hearings on behalf of the board. Hearing officers do not have ultimate authority to make parole decisions. Rather, hearing officers submit their recommendations about release, rehearings and parole requirements to the official Board Members, who then make the final determination. Board decisions about parole require only a majority vote; once three of the five board members agree on a determination, the decision is approved. All BOP decisions are final and cannot be appealed. 

The Utah Constitution Article VII (UCA), Section 12, creates the Board of Pardons and Parole (“BOP”) and establishes the parameters of its responsibilities.[ii] With the approval of the Senate, the Governor of Utah appoints members to the BOP.[iv]

If an inmate wishes to be released prior to the end of their sentence they will need to go before the BOP. If an inmate does not want to go before the BOP they must serve the entire sentence.[vi] In the case of first degree felony, whether sentenced to 3 to life, 5 to life, 15 to life, or 25 to life, the entire length of such a sentence is natural life unless action is taken by the BOP to alter that sentence. 

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[ii]State of Utah. (n.d.). Statutory Authority. Retrieved 1 13, 2016, from Agency: Board of Pardons and Parole:

[iv]State of Utah. (2015). Board of Pardons and Parole -- Creation -- Compensation -- Functions. Retrieved 1 25, 2016, from Utah Code, Utah Code of Criminal Procedure, Pardons and Parole:

[vi]State of Utah. (2015). Board of Pardons and Parole. Retrieved 1 25, 2016, from Sentencing in Utah: