Thursday, May 07, 2009


What Is the Real Purpose of Hate Crime Laws?

Yesterday I entered a discussion on hate crime laws at Post Politics. My assertion is that currently hate crime laws, no matter what the wording, aim to protect certain groups or classes of people. Of course, some beg to disagree.

Those who beg to differ make accusations such as "racist or anti-gay." One commenter, dontcallmemikey, tries to be more logical.
Hate Crimes, (also known as bias-motivated crimes) occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, or political affiliation.
An act considered taken due to hatred of gender, color, religion, etc. is considered worse than one for money, jealousy, etc. BECAUSE the hatred is the motivator.
I don't buy that argument.

Assault, robbery, murder, etc should be and is illegal. Why should a criminal receive less punishment for doing the same damage just because he/she didn't have hateful thoughts about his/her victim? The victim feels the same pain and suffering.

Of course, we all know, whether or not we admit it, that hate crime laws are for the "protection" on certain groups. I put protection in quotes because there apparently is no evidence that hate crime laws provide any protection to anyone. No proven deterrent effect has been established.

"...the laws are not very effective as a punishment or a deterrent."

"The other basic defense of hate crime laws is also dubious: that enhanced penalties have a deterrent effect. There is no evidence for this. The same people who tell us repeatedly that the death penalty has no deterrent effect at all find themselves having to argue that a few extra months in jail deters racial attacks. I remember the lack of deterrent effect of the death penalty from my Sociology of Crime and Punishment class in the mid-1979s.

do hate crime enhancements deter crime? If they do, I can't find any good research that proves it.

"Even though the federal government and an increasing number of states have passed hate crimes legislation since the mid-1980s, law enforcement experts say there is no rising tide of hate crimes to deter. .... "There is little systematic evidence that hate crimes laws deter crimes," said Jack Levin, a Northeastern University criminologist who supports hate crimes laws. He supports something that doesn't work. Makes you wonder.

Few gay men and even fewer lesbians are ever victims of hate crimes. Nor is there any reliable evidence that hate crimes laws, where they exist, have any deterrent effect on would-be perpetrators.

There's no evidence I'm aware of that hate-crimes laws actually deter hate crimes beyond what the law already deters. (If readers are aware of any such evidence, I'd love to see it.) All but seven states already have special laws dealing with hate crimes, and 24 of the states include anti-gay violence. We now have almost 40 years of experience with these laws. Yet Shepard/Solmonese provide no evidence such laws have been effective. Indeed, a careful reading of the column shows that they do not even claim an enhanced deterrent effect.

So, what is the real purpose of hate crime laws? The most obvious answer: politicians love to suck up to special interest groups in order to garner votes. Some in these special groups like hate crime laws. Some outside these groups but sympathetic to the groups like hate crime laws. If the laws do no good, why?

The laws help push their agendas by identifying those groups as "special" and persecuted. The laws provide intimidation of normal law-abiding citizens. Normal law-abiding citizens become afraid to express any sort of negative thought towards these groups. Like when my sister, when speaking only to me, couldn't say black hoodlums were preying on whites in some areas of town (where muggings were becoming frequent). She felt it necessary to say "certain people" were preying on whites.

Liberals/left wingers make up the people that most strongly and commonly support hate crime laws. With the U.S. holding the record for having the "largest prison population and the highest rate of incarceration in the world," why are these self-proclaimed caring and compassionate lefties so eager to put people in prison more often and/or for longer periods of time?

Because the success of the liberal/left wing agenda depends of intimidation and fear. In practice and under close analysis, the ideas and goals of America's left have never worked and never will. Most people prefer more freedom and opportunity than the socialism of the left allows. Thus, at every turn the specter of incarceration or other harmful outcome must be held over the head of the populace.

It's the one thing I've never understood. Someone doesn't commit a crime out of love. Any crime is a hate crime.

You nailed it on this one. It is all about greater and special consideration for certain groups.

Just like one black person calling another black a nigger is okay, but as soon as I do it (I'm white), then it is hateful and a violation of thier civil rights. It's all about pandering to people who don't want equal treatment, they want preferential treatment.
who don't want equal treatment, they want preferential treatment.

That and intimidating others.
My brother, arguing against this legislation, inexplicably came up with IMHO the best and most concise explanation for the existence of hate crimes laws:

The only reason for providing elevated punishment for hate crimes is this: if the only reason this defendant harmed this victim was some demographic category of the victim, then this crime does more than just harm that victim. It acts as a threat which extends to all the members of the community who fit that category. Such acts say: you [insert category here], you have extra reason to stay inside, to stay outside of the public eye, and to live in fear.In addition to that, hate crimes legislation allows for federal involvement in such cases due to the history of such crimes' neglectful treatment at the local and state levels.
...neglectful treatment at the local and state levels.I think the feds should go after the local authorities in these cases. Not enforcing the law equally in all cases is reprehensible.
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