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Hate Crimes - Federal

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  Initial Country Report (Sept, 2000). 

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Vernellia R. Randall
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Federal. U.S. law has long provided criminal penalties for certain violations of civil rights, including in particular acts of violence motivated by racism. See, e.g., 18 U.S.C. sec. 245(b)(2); 18 U.S.C. sec. 247(c); 42 U.S.C. sec. 3631. Federal "hate crimes" law makes "an offense punishable by law" acts of violence or incitement to such acts, including the provision of assistance for such acts, including financing. In some instances, harsher penalties have been available when ordinary crimes are committed with racist intent. The Clinton Administration strongly supports legislation to expand the protections under federal hate crimes statutes.

In recent years, the Federal government has undertaken a number of initiatives to combat hate crimes and violence. Central to these efforts has been the undertaking to gather information. The Hate Crimes Statistics Act of 1990, Pub. L. 101-275, 28 U.S.C. sec. 534, directs the Attorney General to collect data from state and local law enforcement agencies about crimes that "manifest evidence of prejudice based upon race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity." The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Report Program is the central repository for hate crime statistics. Subsequent efforts have been directed at youth who commit hate crimes, including the development of a school-based curriculum to address prevention and treatment of hate crimes by juveniles.

Despite these efforts, it is a disturbing element of life in the United States that hate crimes are prevalent and wide-spread. In 1998, a total of 7,755 bias-motivated criminal incidents were reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program by 10,730 law enforcement agencies in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Of these incidents, racial bias motivated 4,321; religious bias accounted for 1,390; sexual-orientation bias was the cause of 1,260; ethnicity/national origin bias represented 754; disability bias was associated with 25; and the remaining 5 incidents were the result of multiple biases. Sixty-eight percent of the offenses reported were crimes against persons. Indeed, thirteen persons were murdered in incidents motivated by hate. The United States continually reevaluates its laws, policies and practices in light of statistics like these in its efforts both to punish and to prevent bias-motivated crimes. 

State and Local Action). Forty-seven jurisdictions in the United States have enacted some form of legislation designed to combat hate crimes. A number of states, including California, Florida and Ohio, have adopted laws prohibiting specific activities at specific places, for example, vandalism and intentional disturbances at places of worship. Florida and the District of Columbia have prohibited such acts as burning a cross or placing a swastika or other symbol on another's property with intent to intimidate. Thirty-nine states have enacted laws against bias-motivated violence and intimidation; for example, a New York statute prohibits bias-motivated discrimination or harassment. Other states (e.g., Wisconsin) provide for enhanced penalties when the motivation for an otherwise criminal act is bias. Nineteen states mandate the collection of hate crime statistics.




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