Pre-sentence reports and punishment: A quasi-experiment assessing the effects of risk-based pre-sentence reports on sentencing
Sigrid van Wingerden, Johan van Wilsem, Martin Moerings
European Journal of Criminology
The current study investigates the effects of structured risk-based pre-sentence reports on sentencing outcomes in the Netherlands by means of a quasi-natural experiment. Defendants with such a report are compared with similar defendants without such a report, based on propensity score matching and synchronization on nine additional criteria relevant to penal decision-making (N = 6118). Although structured risk-based pre-sentence reports are a textbook example of ‘new penological’ accounts, high-risk defendants with such a report are not sentenced to more ‘controlling’ and less ‘diverting’ sentencing outcomes than are high-risk defendants without such a report. Instead, these reports overall relate to less ‘controlling’ and more ‘diverting’ sentencing outcomes, indicating that the penal welfarism account is still prevalent in penal decision-making in the Netherlands.