Predictors of Hate Crime Prosecutions
Hate and bias crime has been addressed through study of various aspects understanding hate crime legislation, policing hate crime, Supreme Court cases, and victimization studies among others however little is known about hate crime prosecution. National data set from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data together with variables from Ant defamation league containing hate crime law characteristics were used to understand hate crime prosecution (Byers, Warren-Gordon, & Jones, 2012). Many hate crime cases are considered low level offenses with the perpetrator ending up not being known by the victim therefore it making convictions of hate crimes difficult.
Prosecutors mainly view these crimes as minor which are wrong as constant exposure to hate or bias can result to development of serious health conditions such a depression and withdrawal. Studies have reported a high tendency of crime in depressed individuals with a good number engaging in serious crimes such as drug abuse, murder or even self inflicted injuries and suicide. This is the long run causes an even more expensive legal process coupled with detailed investigations which could have been avoided by solving the hate crime crisis.
Another challenge that faces hate crime prosecutions and convictions is the freedom of speech provisions in the first amendment which are worded in such that increases burden to prosecutors that are seeking hate crime charges and penalty enhancements (Byers, Warren-Gordon, & Jones, 2012). The obstacles generated by the case law hinder conviction of hate crimes. Freedom of speech should be regulated by natural and communal law agreed upon by a group of people, words or phrases found offensive should be clearly stated in a communal policy and clear guidelines provided on the consequences faced by individuals found guilty of using the prohibited utterances .
A research by Phillips (2009) in New Jersey reported that bias crimes based on religion and those involving multiple bias motivations were successfully prosecuted which is an addiction of respect to religion and that clear bias motivation in a hate crime can result into a more likely conviction. Prosecutors are used faced by political pressures which are inherent to their positions leading to high level of discretion to protect self interest in handling such hate crime related cases assert that prosecutors usually engage a decision making procedure in seeking and enforcing a law while considering factors stipulated in other types of cases while trying to suppress pressures.
Data set should contain variables that deal with office characteristics and prosecutorial practices. Some of the variables can include; whether or not the state has a bias crime statue, whether or not civil action was a remedy within the state among other related variables. These variables were crucial in establishing a proper baseline for study of emerging or existing hate/bias crimes in that particular state (Byers, Warren-Gordon, & Jones, 2012). Several research questions must answered some of which include; which prosecution patterns in states which do and do not have bias crime statues, how presence of civil remedies influence bias crime prosecutions and how available tool of sentencing influence bias crime prosecutions.
Descriptive analysis checked at the frequency of hate crime prosecutions compared to other type’s crimes in the prosecutor’s office. They revealed that up to 80% of offices had not prosecuted a hate crime in a period of 1 year; this was contrary to the high levels of prosecution for domestic violence, stalking and child abuses. This is farfetched considering that hate crimes are a serious a crime like any of the aforementioned crimes.
It is evident that hate crimes are not prosecuted at high levels due to the unlimited difficulties and controversies encouraged while attempting prosecuting hate crimes. Analysis showed that prosecutor’s offices with staff involved in community-related activities were at a better position to prosecute hate crimes due to higher sensitivity to bias crimes. A majority of hate crimes were motivated by racial, religious and ethnic bias therefore states with statues that articulate prohibition of such biases are more likely to prosecute and sometimes achieve convictions for hate crimes. Addition of sexual orientation in the state hate crime laws was a predictor of hate crime prosecutions (Byers, Warren-Gordon, & Jones, 2012). States with institutional vandalism provisions in their statues are more committed to the prosecution of hate crimes and are likely to accept the greater harm hypotheses that deleterious effects of hate crimes can be felt beyond those directly victimized.
In conclusion, States that have hate crime laws have higher cases of reported hate crime cases however it is difficult to prosecute hate crimes based on evidentiary issues and the legal requirement in criminal cases to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt. This was a major barrier to justice for victims as most perpetrators hide behind the shell of freedom of speech. Unresolved crime would eventually result to a higher increase in the number of such crimes as most victims will be reluctant to report knowing that no legal action would be taken against the offenders.
Byers, B. D., Warren-Gordon, K., & Jones, J. A. (2012). The Predictors of hate crime prosecutions: An analysis of data from the national prosecutors survey and state-level bias crime laws. Race and Justice, 2(3), 203-219.