Nearly all the country has passed some form of hate crimes legislation. Such legislation imposes stiffer penalties for a crime committed if the offender hated the person due to race or certain other classifications. Walmart and Governor Asa Hutchinson want Arkansas to pass hate crimes legislation so Arkansas does not stick out by not having one. It is a matter of going with the flow and checking a box; it is not a matter of passing something that actually works.
Hate crimes legislation normally operates by imposing an enhanced sentence. And, that is the approach first taken by a bill filed earlier this year. A slightly different approach to hate crimes is found in SB622 by Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey, R-Texarkana. SB622 does not add additional time to a person’s sentence but requires the criminal to serve a greater percentage of his sentence (80%) before being eligible for parole. Either way the result of SB622 and other such legislation is basically the same – longer incarceration if the crime is deemed a hate crime.
Stopping violence against minorities is a very good goal and we have no sympathy for people who target victims based on race or other characteristics. Yet you still must ask: “Does the actual hate crimes law help? Does it produce a logical result?” While punishing racists and the like more harshly, sounds appealing, hate crimes legislation does not appear to work and doesn’t produce a logical result.
#1. Do hate crimes laws act as a deterrent? Do you really think a criminal will stop and think: “I better not harm this person because if I am caught I will have to serve longer than if I hurt someone else.”?
#2. Do hate crimes laws produce logical results? Why should a cold-blooded criminal with no regard for human life get a lesser sentence than someone committing the same act out of hate? Isn’t the cold-blooded criminal just as dangerous to society?
Does the acts or statements of the criminal show a bias toward a group of people, does that bias reach to the point that you can say the criminal hates the group, and was the crime have some bias toward a group of people and in committing the group from which the victim comes but also basically become the thought police. The prosecutor
Also, why should a criminal get out of prison sooner if he committed his crime out of hate but not out of hate for a particular class of people? What if he hated the victim for something such as being his ex-wife’s brother or because of some long-standing disagreement? Do some kinds of hate justify less time in prison then other kinds of hate?
You may be just as dead because of the criminal’s act out of hate but because it was not a covered hate, he gets out of prison sooner.
#3. Is there a realistic and workable “thought policy” by which these cases can all be judged? To enforce a hate crimes law prosecutors become responsible for “thought policy.” Even if a criminal hates people of certain groups you still must step inside his head and determine whether that was his motivation to commit the crime. This opens the door for one prosecutor to see hate crimes everywhere and another to see almost none.
We wish we could say hate crimes legislation works and brings some logical consistent result, but it doesn’t. Passing legislation just to be like the crowd (and perhaps to stay on Walmart’s good side) is not justification to pass such a law.