In addition to the excellent work of the Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, the media can be a good source of information about judges, as Holly Richardson wrote on Saturday. But this is only true if members of the media have accurate information and a good understanding of the issues that judges face in criminal sentencing.

Understanding the sentencing guidelines is a great place to start. The Utah Sentencing Commission, which is made up of 27 of the best and brightest minds from all areas of criminal justice, has been producing guidelines for decades. The guidelines create a more uniform, transparent, accountable and effective criminal sentencing system.

When sentences are too long, they can foster antisocial networks and disrupt families and communities in ways that actually promote crime. At the same time, a sentence that is too short might return someone to the community before it is reasonably safe. No one can tell the future, but the sentencing guidelines are based on the best available evidence to strike the right balance in the majority of cases.

When a judge follows the nonbinding guidelines, it shows that the judge is consistent and fair, not lenient or arbitrary.

Marshall Thompson, Director, Utah Sentencing Commission