Informing the Court: The Use of Pre-sentence and Gladue Reports at Sentencing

AuthorPaula Maurutto
Informing the Court: The Use of
Pre-sentence and Gladue Reports
at Sentencing
Paula Maurutto
Pre-sentence reports (PSRs) and Gladue Reports provide the courts
with a detailed independent objective assessment of a person prior to a
sentencing decision. ey are legal documents intended to assist judges
in crafting an individualized and appropriate sentence. ese reports
shape how the courts perceive an individual’s risk, treatment potential,
and suitability for community supervision. As such, they are instru-
mental in def‌ining the type, length, and conditions attached to the f‌inal
sentence. Understanding the content and structure of these reports is
central to questions of sentencing and, more broadly, the conguration
of punishment.
is chapter examines how the information and format of PSRs
and Gladue Reports dierentially impact sentencing outcomes. Fol-
lowing a description of the PSR, the chapter outlines how actuarial
risk assessment methods have become integrated into PSRs. Beginning
in the late s, provinces and territories across the country began
Criminal Code, RSC , c C-, ss ()–() [Criminal Code].
R v Gladue, []  SCR  [Gladue].
Informing the Court: The Use of Pre-sentence and Gladue Reports at Sentencing | 97
altering PSR structure to incorporate new innovations in risk assess-
ments. e incorporation of risk into the PSR is signicant as it aects
the content of information presented to the courts; in particular, it
shifts how an individual’s risk and treatment needs are framed. e
chapter will review the critical debates that have emerged as a result of
risk-based PSRs. It will also highlight the inconsistencies and tensions
that arise when risk-based PSRs incorporate Gladue factors that are
specic to Indigenous peoples.
is is followed by a review of Gladue Reports and how they pro-
duce a markedly dierent assessment of an individual. Gladue Reports
oer an alternative court report that is attentive to the structural
realities and cultural specicities of Indigenous peoples. e contrast
between PSRs and Gladue Reports underscores how the structure of
each report provides a unique approach to framing the legal subject.
Internationally, PSRs were introduced as a legal instrument that would
reduce imprisonment and further the rehabilitation goals of the courts.
PSRs provide the courts with a more composite prole of a person,
and, in cases where a judge may be considering a community sen-
tence, they identify suitable conditions for probation and conditional
sentences. e inclusion of this information in PSRs was intended to
assist judges in identifying the least restrictive available disposition and
potentially lead to reductions in incarceration rates. In Canada, PSR
writers are more cautious about interfering with judicial discretion and
do not normally recommend a particular sentence; however, they do
James Bonta, Presentence Reports in Canada (Ottawa: Public Safety and Emer-
gency Preparedness Canada, ); David P Cole & Glenn Angus, “Using Pre-sen-
tence Reports to Evaluate and Respond to Risk” ()  Criminal Law Quarterly
; Kelly Hannah-Moat & Paula Maurutto, “Re-contextualizing Pre-sentence
Reports: Risk and Race” ()  Punishment and Society  [Hannah-Moat &
Maurutto, “Risk and Race”]
George Mair & Lol Burke, Redemption, Rehabilitation and Risk Management: A History
of Probation (London: Routledge, ); Cyrus Tata, “Reducing Prison Sentencing
Through Pre-sentence Reports? Why the Quasi-market Logic of ‘Selling Alternatives to
Custody’ Fails” ()  Howard Journal of Crime and Justice .

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