It is not normal nor abnormal to serve the majority of the sentence when the sentence is short, especially depending on the background. I assume that since your husband got prison time for a theft by check, then he must have priors. The parole board considers the background in determining whether someone is likely to reoffend. (In addition, if they serve most of their sentence then the little credit they have for good time will mean the parole board does not have to supervise him.)
Many times on alcohol related cases and sex offenses the defendant is given a serve all meaning he will serve all the time they can possibly make him serve. They frequently do it on the shorter 2 & 3 year sentences, too.