Wednesday, July 02, 2008

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More “hate crime” nonsense

Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t really think that charging four 14-year-old kids with a “hate crime” for throwing rocks at a Jewish-school bus is going to make the blacks and the Jews in Crown Heights hate each other any less. Do you?

We need to worry less about throwing the book at people for these things, and spend more time and effort addressing what’s behind it. Giving four teens adult-scale criminal records won’t accomplish anything useful. Getting respected members of these communities to work together to resolve their differences might be lots harder, but it’ll have lots more value.

I’m just sayin’.

7 comments:

lidija said...

I don't know where you draw the line with "kids" but every one of the incidents mentioned in the article is a hate crime and there is a good reason we have a hate crime category. So such acts need to be punishable accordingly. Yes you can argue people are taking their own economic and other frustrations out on the "others" and so maybe we should work on the root causes of it all - all the while, yes. But, we cannot drop the punishment part quite yet. Is there a more appropriate way to deal with 14-yr olds? Maybe, but it looks like their elders are just as bad. So, who will teach them? The juvenile law system? Or just scare them with some hate crime charges? Anyhoo, things look pretty messed up in Crown Heights.

Maggie said...

I agree that punishment doesn't act as a deterrent against crime, and hate crime is something that needs a deeper change in society for it to go away. In the mean time, establishing a sort of societal expectation or norm is a positive step, and taking it very seriously in the law helps establish that norm.

Barry Leiba said...

Well, the thing is that the "hate crime" charges aren't something to "scare" them -- adding "hate crime" to the charges makes the penalties more severe, and in this case will get them tried as adults. I don't see the benefit in that.

I'm not suggesting that we laugh it off and do nothing to them — by all means, punish them the way you'd punish any kids who threw rocks at a bus. And then add to that some sort of community counselling to address the friction between these black kids and their Jewish neighbours.

But if we try them as adults and throw them in prison for several years for a "hate crime", they — and their parents and their friends and neighbours — will only hate Jews more for it, and they'll hate and distrust the justice system as well.

Dr. Momentum said...

if it's reducing hatred that's the goal, I guess I don't think punishment ever reduces hatred. That's just not the way it works. Punishment is about trying to prevent the other side from taking the matter into their own hands. And, IMHO, that's about all it's about. Preventing vigilantism by mollifying the wronged.

Regarding hate crimes in general, I think they're more to mollify certain groups. If punishment is about mollifying, then hate crimes mean that certain groups require a more concerted effort in mollifying.

So far I haven't seen anything that tells me my views on this are inaccurate. I'm sure there are excuses people bandy about, but I've never heard anything convincing that hate crime legislation, applied liberally, reduces hatred.

That's not to say I don't believe these crimes are wrong, or that they aren't often motivated differently than other crimes. I just mean that I think some people are fooling themselves about the reasons for their existence.

And if I'm correct, the age of the perpetrator has nothing to do with it.

Barry Leiba said...

No, I'm not trying to say that reducing hatred should be "the goal" of the punishment. I'm only hoping that we can avoid making the accusation, trial, and punishment not exacerbate the hatred, is all.

As to age... I think we say that some age is "too young" to treat them as adult criminals, or we don't. I'll accept that it's appropriate to vary that by considering the individual child. I don't think it's appropriate to vary it by circumstance alone.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Hate crime legislation does not reduce hate, nor is it intended to. It's intended to changed behavior.

Hate crime is not the same as regular crime. Those kids might throw rocks at any bus - they might only throw rocks at Jews. The point of a hate crime is to terrorize a group, not to attack a single person. It IS a qualitatively different act. Hate crimes are intended to send a message to everyone in the targeted group - you could be next, just for being you.

"Oderint Dum Metuant" isn't a great motto for a government but it fits if the hating and the fearing have different sources. I don't give a damn if someone hates me and my kind as long as he's too afraid of the penalties to act on his hatred.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Let me add that throwing kids in jail (and 14 is a kid) isn't what I'm in favor of. I'm just trying to say that hate crime laws aren't intended to reduce hate per se, only instances of people acting on it.