Prison sentences and alternatives to prison for defendants convicted of crimes. Criminal sentences may involve one or more different elements, including incarceration (prison, jail), probation, restitution (victim compensation), and community service. Prison SentencesSome state laws require the judges to impose what are called “determinate” prison sentences. A determinate sentence is a fixed-term sentence pronounced by a judge. For example, a defendant sentenced to “30 days in county jail” or “five years in state prison” has received a determinate sentence.