Open Letter to Utah’s Judges

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The following letter is being sent to all District Court Judges in Utah:

 

Utah Sentencing Alternatives has been providing alternative or defense-based sentencing reports for five years.  In recognition of this milestone I would like to convey my ongoing commitment to justice and provide an update regarding the services offered.

As a former probation/parole officer and supervisor for the Utah Department of Corrections I am well aware of the challenges and limitations faced by the probation officers responsible for preparing presentence reports.  I established Utah Sentencing Alternatives in August 2009 to address deficiencies in the sentencing process.

It has become clear, however, that Utah Sentencing Alternatives can do more to support the probation officers who are tasked with preparing presentence reports.  Effective immediately, I have begun recommending and encouraging defense counsel to provide AP&P (at or before the presentence interview) with a copy of any assessment or report prepared by Utah Sentencing Alternatives.

This modification is intended to support the procedural reviews and internal changes currently underway in the Utah Department of Corrections and the system in general, while continuing to ensure judges have complete access to accurate information.

I have long advocated for the adoption of evidence-based practices and outcomes that are reasonably related to individual circumstances.  I am pleased to see the momentum for reform grow in recent months and for the opportunity to play a small supporting role in it.

Similarly, I believe the services provided to defendants prior to sentencing increase perceptions of fairness and procedural justice.  In turn, these defendants are better prepared for success in the correctional system –regardless of the sentencing outcome.

I extend a personal invitation, within the judicial canons of professional conduct, to contact me directly with any questions, concerns, or feedback concerning the services provided.

It is my opinion that public safety is best achieved when correctional resources are used wisely and when those convicted of violating our laws demonstrate accountability.  I strive for objectivity while acknowledging the potential for bias associated with my role in the process.  Overall, it is my objective to serve as a trusted and valuable resource for information when making sentencing decisions.

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