Hate Crime Laws Essay, Research Paper
Hate crimes are on the rise all over the United States because there are so many different cultures, which do not get along. The majority of these crimes are occurring mostly in the states where there are no hate crime laws or where the laws are not strict enough, which is why all states should have some type of law to prevent such crimes, along with federal intervention to stiffen the penalties. Laws against hate crimes should exist in every state because these laws would deter people from committing crimes, punish those who committed the crime, and they would also give people a feeling of security.
Chained to the back of a pickup truck by the ankles and dragged to death, one man s life ended in a heinous murder and the publics conscience awoke to the horrifying headlines describing the mutilated remains of a black man scattered along a road. The slaying last summer of 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas, a harsh reminder to all Americans that violent crimes motivated by prejudice continue to disrupt our nation s sense of racial harmony. The nation was made aware once again of the reality of hate crimes in October 1998 by the fatal beating of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. The 21-year-old college student suffered sever head injuries after being beaten and tied to a wooden fence in near-freezing temperatures. While the Byrd murder was motivated by views of white supremacy, the Shepard murder was triggered because of the victim s sexual orientation. These savage attacks, among many others not reported or covered by the media, have prompted nationwide outrage and have renewed the hate crime debate (Grigera 68).
According to the FBI s most recent Hate Crimes Statistics Act (HCSA) report for the 1997, there were 8,049 hate crimes reported by 11,211 participating law enforcement agencies in the 48 states and the District of Columbia (Hawaii and New Hampshire did not participate). The FBI report indicated that about 59 percent of the reported hate crimes were race-based (4,710 incidents); 17 percent were committed against individuals on the basis of their religion (1,385 incidents); 10 percent on the basis of ethnicity (836 incidents); and 14 percent on the basis of sexual orientation (1,102 incidents) (Grigera 68).
With a closer look at race-based hate crimes, approximately 39 percent of the reported crimes were anti-black (3,120 incidents); 12 percent were anti-white (993 incidents); 4 percent were anti-Asian (347 incidents); .4 percent were anti-American Indian/Alaskan Native (36 incidents); and 3 percent were anti-multiracial group (214 incidents). Although the number of hate crimes may seem small when compared with the incidence of other types of crimes in the United States, it can be argued that hate crimes terrorize not one victim but many, and that such assaults threaten the very fabric of the American sense of safety and basic understanding of differences (Grigera 68).
Hate crimes create fear and hostility in individuals and in communities. They occur because a person does not accept someone who is different from himself or herself. He or she usually is motivated by someone s gender, race, national origin, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, disability or sexual orientation. As the Web site www.stopthehate.org points out, Hate crimes are not only crimes against the targeting victim, but also against a particular group as a whole. Hate crimes are attacks on communities. (Clayton 8).
There are a number of organized hate groups in America, including: the Ku Klux Klan (our nation s oldest hate group); the National Alliance; the Aryan Nation; World Church of the Creator and Neo-Nazi Skinheads. Hate carries across races as well. For example, the Nation of Islam has been known at times to teach its followers, primarily black Muslims, to dislike Jews and white people in general. Thanks to modern technology, hate groups now have the capability to reach a bigger audience than ever before. Traditionally, they relied on use of propaganda in books, magazines and flyers. Now, with cable television and the Internet at their disposal, these groups are able to launch mass recruiting campaigns with very little effort. Unlike years ago, they now can target young people through online games and graphics, as well as through e-mail and chat groups (Clayton 8).
America needs a comprehensive federal law to cover discriminatory crimes so that federal prosecutors can intervene in a limited number of cases where justice would not be served. While hate crimes are more violent than their generic counterparts, it is their terroristic and discriminatory nature that makes them appropriate for federal prosecution. Federal intervention is necessary in those instances where local authorities refuse to pursue cases or where bias contaminates local jury pools. Federal authorities can also offer significant investigative resources to smaller local-police agencies (Levin and Fein 24). It has been argued that hate-crime laws are unnecessary because we already have laws that punish criminals and we should just enforce existing statutes. However, hate-crime laws properly punish and deter those offenses where a criminal intentionally selects his target based on race, color, religion, sexual orientation or other characteristics. Where hate crime laws have been enforced aggressively in Boston and New Jersey, hate crimes have dropped substantially (Levin and Fein 24-25).
Studies have demonstrated that these offenses, in contrast to crimes in general, are more likely to involve excessive violence, multiple offenders, assailants who are strangers, serial attacks, greater psychological trauma to victims, a heightened risk of social disorder and a greater expenditure of resources to solve. Thus hate crimes represent a cluster of severe characteristics and risks that warrant enhanced punishment (Levin and Fein 25).
Hate crime laws would help prevent people from committing crimes because once they see what happens to other criminals, they would be reluctant to commit the same crime. Deterring people from committing hate crimes would help eliminate such brutal and deadly attacks like the ones that happened in Texas and Wyoming. Before anyone can stop these hate crimes completely, they must be eliminated slowly. By eliminating groups like the KKK and the Neo-Nazis that play a huge role in hate crimes, this would show progress of getting rid of hate crimes. Until gangs and hate groups are turned away from hurting and killing people nothing will happen to the reduction of hate crimes in the U.S. This is why all states need some type of law to help prevent hate crimes that will have some deterrent effect.
People that commit these crimes should be punished for what they have done. How brutal the attack is should determine how severe the punishment should be. If a person kills an innocent victim like the case of James Byrd Jr., and Matthew Shepard, they should get the death penalty. This is when hate crime laws should not come into effect, since the death penalty is the most severe penalty available. The punishment should also depend on how old the perpetrator is. If it is a young adult that committed a hate crime and it is his/her first conviction they should be put in a juvenile jail. They should also have to do community service, and receive counseling that would teach them hatred is wrong and what they are doing is wrong. But if it s an adult that committed the hate crime, they should get at least 15 years to life, a lot of counseling and plenty of community service. Maybe this would change their minds when they go out to hurt or kill someone because of a person s race, religion, or sexual preference.
Hate crimes legislation denotes a set of prescriptions that include toughening sentencing guidelines, expanding federal jurisdiction and requiring the compilation of statistical data on bias crimes. Currently, twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have hate crime laws with provisions on sexual orientation along with race, religion, ethnicity and, in some disability and gender; twenty states have hate crime laws that do not include sexual orientation, and nine states have no hate crime laws whatsoever (Kim 24).
Finally, hate crime laws would give people a feeling of security. People may not feel completely secure since crimes are committed everyday but laws would help. For example in Wyoming were there are no laws, people are fighting to get laws passed that would help prevent occurrences like the Shepard incident. Plenty of people there were worried when this happened but if the laws are passed, maybe this will give the people a better feeling of security. Once the American people see the hate crime going down that is when they will feel secure.
Hate crime laws should be passed in every state because they would turn people away from committing hate crimes. If the punishment for a hate crime were a harsh punishment then people would not want to face the consequences for hurting someone for their beliefs, or race. People would feel a lot more secure knowing these laws are out there and that these people are being punished adequately for it.