Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Amy J. Benavides
An indeterminate sentence is a term of imprisonment with no definite duration, only a specified maximum and minimum number of years. The philosophy behind indeterminate sentences is that sentencing should be based on individual circumstances and on the offender's rehabilitation efforts while incarcerated. In some states, a trial judge choosing a sentence is limited by law to a narrow range of options, called determinate sentences; for example, burglary might be punishable by three, five, or seven years in prison. In states with indeterminate sentences, however, a crime such as firstdegree murder may be punishable with a sentence of “twenty years to life.” In such a case, the state's parole board decides when, if ever, the defendant should be paroled after he or she has served the twenty-year minimum; eligibility for parole is determined on the basis of the characteristics and behavior of the convicted individual. Statutes for determinate sentences usually ...