Hate Crimes the Definition of Term Paper

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C. By Michael Shively (June, 2005), the first hate crime laws were enacted during the sixties, seventies, and eighties. The first states to pass hate crime legislation were Oregon and Washington in 1981. The first federal hate crime legislation, Shively explains, was debated in 1985, and the first federal statute related to hate crimes was the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, passed in 1990. Subsequent to that Act, other pieces of legislation have passed: the Hate Crime Sentencing Enhancement Act; the Violence Against Women Act of 1998; the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1994; and the Equal Rights and Equal Dignity for Americans Act of 2003 (Shively, 3).

[Presently, in the week of April 23-27, 2012, a debate in the U.S. Senate regarding the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act shows how politics, ideology, and bias within the United States Congress can interfere with hate crime laws. Since the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed in the 1990s, it has been reauthorized twice with little opposition. But in a presidential year -- 2012 -- no legislation slips through without a major collision of ideologies in the U.S. Congress. The Democrats and Republicans are locked in a bitter logjam of ideologies, divided and adversarial towards each other over nearly every issue that comes before the Congress. Bipartisanship is rarely witnessed in the Congress, even with an issue so vital as protecting women from hate crimes.

[For this reauthorization of the VAWA, legislators have added women who are undocumented immigrants, women from Indian tribes, and women in same-sex couple relationship, but Republicans oppose expanding the bill to add those women who specifically would be protected under the newly reauthorized VAWA. There is a good chance Republicans will use a filibuster to prevent the reauthorization from happening. An editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, also published in the Sacramento Bee suggests that the VAWA has "raised awareness substantially, removed legal obstacles to enforcing orders of protection…and barred accounts of victims' past experiences from being used against them in most legal proceedings involving sexual violence" (Sacramento Bee, April 25, 2012).

[U.S. Senator from Texas, John Cornyn, opposes the revised law. He asserts that the VAWA is being "politicized. It shouldn't be," he told MSNBC reporter Andrea Mitchell (Houston Chronicle, 2012). He stated that adding same sex couples and immigrants and Native Americans to the bill is basically the Democrats forcing a "wedge issue" on the Republicans; and if the reauthorization does not pass through, the Democrats during the presidential campaigning can accuse the Republicans of not supporting laws that protect women (Houston Chronicle).

[In the "comments" section after the story about Cornyn a post states that "Republicans will not vote for anything they think might remotely make President Obama look good"; another cryptically suggests that, "…who cares if it's just some Native American women, illegals or lesbians that get beat up? They're not really people anyway, are they? What are they like maybe 3/5ths of a person?" The editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch concludes that the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs -- which reviews reports by lesbians and gay men from 2010 -- reflects that there have been "double-digit increases in intimate partner violence, in the severity of violence and in the frequency with which they were turned away from violence shelters and denied orders of protection" (Sacramento Bee).

[Given that the addition of these categories of women to the VAWA should not be considered provocative given that they are all women and deserve protection, the editorial insists the "Senate Republicans should stop playing games and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act" (Sacramento Bee)].

Meanwhile, in his voluminous report, Shively explains that there is "no national consensus" as to whether hate crimes should be considered a totally separate class of criminal activity, but there are keys that come up in each state during each time consideration is being given to hate crime legislation.

Those keys include: a) the necessity of "hate or bias motivation" when the specific offenses like vandalism or assault have already been on the books as criminal law; b) is there some kind of danger to bring more penalties on top of existing law and thus take away the focus of criminal law, putting it on the individual behavior? c) The possibility of determining the actual motive of the person's criminal act is often in doubt; d) whether, "in practice, hate crime laws result in crimes against certain groups of people" who are thus being punished "more severely than equivalent crimes committed against other groups"; e) does the fact that a jurisdiction has a hate crime statute actually deter "potential offenders"; and f) does having hate crime laws actually put a barrier in investors' ability to properly prosecute a crime? (Shively, 2005, p. i).

One can clearly see that the debate around whether or not to add hate crimes to the roster of laws a state already has is legitimate and worthy of great and thoughtful consideration. Generally states have a tendency to add "protected groups" to existing hate crime laws, and they have added "penalty enhancement" for crimes motivated by hate and bias along with being more thorough in gathering evidence and performing "statistical reporting" (Shively, ii).

As to why many victims don't report the crimes against them, Shively suggests that people don't really understand "what constitutes hate crime in their state," and they may not mention to law enforcement that they believe hate towards a race or sexual preference was the cause of the offence. Moreover, some victims are simply reluctant to interact with the police and along with that, there are law enforcement agencies and officers that "prefer not to acknowledge the role of hate in certain offenses" (Shively, iii).

Another problem with the differences in state and federal hate crime reporting is that the federal government requires reporting "of all crime, including hate crime," that happens at colleges and universities. That statute does offer flexibility for the college or university victim, to either report the crime to the U.S. Department of Education, or to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports department (UCR). In 2002, there were just 400 of a total of nearly 7,000 colleges and universities that reported "crime data of any kind" but there were 6,000 of the 7,000 colleges and universities that did report crimes to the Department of Education (ED) (Shively, iv).

It is apparent that there are reporting inconsistencies and hence it is hard for federal officials to get a grip on the actual data regarding hate crimes on campuses. Some university police, whether they are sworn officers or not, are not certain as to what constitutes a hate crime, or whether they should refer crimes to the ED or the FBI. These reporting inconsistencies are not only found on campuses, but also generally speaking, at the time this research paper was published, there were cracks in the walls of research into hate crimes simply because of the various ways of reporting instances of hate crimes (Shively, iv).

Underutilized in the genre of tallying hate crimes is important data that is compiled by advocacy groups, Shively continues. Groups like the Anti-Defamation League (which records instances of hate crimes towards Jews), the Human Rights Campaign (advocacy for LGBT individuals), and the Southern Poverty Law Center (principally concerned with crimes against African-Americans), "…continuously compile and periodically disseminate reports and anecdotal evidence of hate crime" (Shively, v).

Other issues with reference to the reporting and accounting of hate crimes include: a) there are "many hate crime prevention and response efforts" but clearly not all of them are coordinated and not all reports are funneled into federal databases, which would be ideal; b) there has not been a "rigorous evaluation" of hate crime preventions policies, nor of the impact of hate crime law reform; c) the style of studies and research on hate crimes is underdeveloped, Shively explains, and also basic research "on the etiology of bias" remains underdeveloped as well; d) there has been a dearth of theory research that can explain or predict when and where hate crimes are likely to occur; e) hate crime messages on the Internet (more recently with reference to social media) is a new and growing concern; f) there have been advances in the "mapping and geographic profiling software" that are promising; and g) however there remained, at the time of this publication, a "fragmentation of information across organizations" vis-a-vis hate crime data (Shively, v).

Shively (5) reports that given all the research available on hate crimes, there are several "major conclusions" to be drawn from the data: a) hate crimes "…are more prevalent than is suggested by reported crime data"; b) "seldom" do victims automatically report a hate crime to law enforcement; there is a reticence to do that, the data shows; and c) in comparison with "analogous conventional offenses" hate crimes tend to have "more serious negative…[continue]

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