In the state of Utah, a person in prison and individuals in favor of their release are allowed to write letters to the Utah Board of Pardons & Parole to declare their support. The letter should be written well in advance of the inmate’s parole hearing. An individual who opposes the release can also write a letter declaring their concern for public safety.
A letter in support should state why the person in prison should be released to the community under the supervision of a parole agent. It should stress that the person will follow the conditions set by the Board.
Where to Send Letters
An individual should send a letter by mail to Utah Board of Pardons and Parole, 448 East 6400 South, #300, Murray, UT 84107.
They should include the full name and offender number of the person in prison. The offender number is a number that Utah state assigns to a person in the state’s criminal justice system. The individual may also email the Board’s office at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conditions the Board May Set
The individual writing the letter should stress the need for the person in prison to be released to the community, such as the fact that their family needs their financial support. The individual can note the goals of the inmate and how the conditions set by the Board will help the person achieve those reintegration goals.
- Compliance with the parole agreement.
- Reporting regularly to one’s parole officer.
- Obeying all laws, regulations and orders of the court.
- Cooperating with the Board and Utah Adult Probation and Parole (AP&P).
- Being truthful in dealings with the Board and AP&P.
- Not absconding from parole.
- Establishing a residence and providing the Board and AP&P with one’s address.
- Permitting parole agent to visit residence, workplace and other areas where person happens may be.
- Living in a state transitional services facility if the person does not have a residence.
- Not leaving the state without prior written permission from one’s parole agent.
- Abiding by the curfew set by one’s parole agent.
- Allowing one’s person, vehicle, residence and other property to be searched.
- Not possessing dangerous weapons, including firearms.
- Paying fees to the state for services from the Utah Department of Corrections.
- Paying fee for supervision by parole agent.
- Seeking and maintaining full-time employment.
- Not associating with individuals engaged in criminal activities.
- Abstaining from use of controlled substances.
- Not entering into an agreement to act as an informant without prior written approval of the Board.
- Paying child support and monies owed to victim of an offense.
Special Conditions of Parole
The Board can set many special conditions of parole, including attending and completing a financial counseling program; completing educational or vocational training; and completing mental health evaluation and recommended treatment.
Penalties for Not Abiding by Conditions of Parole
A person who does not abide by the conditions of parole will face a parole violation. The penalty is typically a return to incarceration for the remainder of their sentence.
Parole Board Hearings and Testimony
In place of writing a letter, an individual can testify in person at a person’s parole hearings. A parole hearing is typically held at the prison where the person is incarcerated, rather in a major city such as Salt Lake City. Usually a hearing is conducted by one Board member or a hearing officer.
The officer conducting the hearing will state the nature of the hearing and review the offender’s conviction and sentence. A person may give testimony when the offender is present. If the victim requests that the offender be removed from the room, the offender will later be given an opportunity to respond to the victim’s testimony.
Victim and Designee Testimony
Family members may testify if a victim is deceased, incapacitated or otherwise not available because of the offense. Usually, testimony is limited to no more than two victim representatives.
If a victim does not want to give testimony, a designee may be appointed to speak on their behalf. Oral testimony at hearings is limited to five minutes per victim or their designee. Remarks should be written and brought to the hearing and left for inclusion in the Board file.
Victims who want to testify should provide a courtesy notification to the Board in advance of the hearing. This allows the Board to allocate time for their presentations.
Verifying an Eligibility Hearing Date
A victim should call the Victim Coordinator for the hearing before the hearing to verify the location and hearing time. They should also state whether they will testify. A victim should arrive at least 30 minutes before the hearing.
A victim at a hearing where media are present will not be photographed without their approval and approval of the officer presiding over the hearing.
Who Usually Writes Letters?
Individuals who write letters regarding a person’s release to parole typically include:
- Person who is incarcerated.
- family and friends of person who is incarcerated.
- Prison staff.
- Person’s psychiatrist or medical physician.
Writing a Letter for One's Own Release
A person who is writing a letter regarding their own release should consider having a criminal defense attorney review the letter to ensure it does not overpromise what the person can deliver or provide evidence that could be used against them in a new criminal case. The review is also to guard against the person stating confidential health information.
If the person in prison is appealing their sentence, they should have the criminal defense attorney who is handling their appeal review their letter. The goal is to delete remarks that could jeopardize the appeal. A person who is writing their own letter should express remorse if they do not feel they were wrongly convicted.
They should also share the goals they have achieved since they were incarcerated, what they could achieve outside of a prison and a plan for their future. It is helpful for the person to share specific details, such as where they want to work or attend school and where they want to live.
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.