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Why I don't support hate crime legislation

Jul 24, 2009

Jos, writing at feministing.com:

Community based forms of restorative justice that empower those who are targeted by violence and work to eradicate the bigotry that leads to such crimes in the first place are a much more valuable change to work toward than empowering our current criminal justice system even more. Violence targeted at members of oppressed communities must be recognized and addressed, but harsher prison sentences are not the way.

Earlier in the entry Jos writes: It is important to recognize violence motivated by bigotry, and difficult to see alternatives to hate crime convictions as a means to this end. A sense of justice for the family and friends of people who have been killed because of their sexuality or gender identity is also valuable. But the ultimate goal should be to end such violence.

Harsher sentencing does not decrease the amount of hate crimes being committed. A focus on sentence enhancement for these crimes does nothing for prevention. Putting our energy toward promoting harsher sentencing takes it away from the more difficult and more important work of changing our culture so that no one wants to kill another person because of their perceived membership in a marginalized identity group.

Read the whole entry.

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Lisa Rea
Lisa Rea says:
Jul 24, 2009 10:58 PM

This is a very interesting subject. I think the author is right that restorative justice can and should be applied in cases of hate crime. It is difficult for many reasons but it should be attempted. I have long been passionate about fighting against acts of racial violence or any acts of violence against a person based on their identity. <br /> <br />The Southern Poverty Law Center based in Montgomery, Alabama has fought against racial violence for decades (e.g. particularly targeting the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazi party). In recent years they have added the category of gender and ethnic identity. I think that is wise. <br /> <br />As the Center has experienced in so many cases it is challenging to accurately track the violence and locate the offender. Also, getting the victim to come forward is also difficult. That would be the problem with applying restorative justice as well, especially after serious violence. Catching this problem early between victims and offenders is critical in that often this type of behavior shows up as bullying in the school yard. <br /> <br />I want to suggest to the author that adding categories of identity (sexual orientation for one) to existing hate crime statutes in the U.S., or elsewhere, is not unwise. The author does not address this. That has been a big part of the political battle around the subject in this country. It seems wise to handle cases on a case by case basis. For low level offenses of these types restorative justice would be very appropriate, especially catching young offenders who have victimized others through bullying, name calling, etc. I am not saying that RJ would not work for more violent cases. I think it would be very helpful. But I would not exclude the importance of adding individuals sometimes forgotten to the list of those that are increasing victimized by those who hate. <br /> <br />There is some exciting research work on this subject of hate crimes and restorative justice soon to be released in the UK. We can use it. <br /> <br />Lisa Rea <br />California

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