Monday, December 14, 2009

Hate Crimes

Sudhir Venkatesh reviews the latest statistics on hate-crimes over at Freakonomics. According to Wikipedia, hate crimes "occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her perceived membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity or political affiliation." Phew.

Are these laws necessary? This summer, before the passing of the new hate-crimes bill that expanded the definition to include the sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity, Lexington argued they are not. His argument centered around a man from Texas who received 75 years in prison for a violent assault of a gay man. Surely, Lexington says, if juries in Texas are being sensitive to such issues, there is no need for a special distinction for these crimes. I tend to see the passing of these stricter sentencing guidelines as a signaling measure from legislators that they are committed to protect those who are usually discriminated against. This is a good signal to send, but whether or not these laws accomplish that goal, well, they jury is still out.

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