Hate crimes do happen in Indiana

June 10, 2008
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A Muncie man was sentenced June 6 by a federal judge to 121 months in prison for a hate crime. The man burned a cross last year in the lawn of a woman and her three biracial children back in 2006. The man also tried to prevent a witness from speaking to FBI agents about the cross burning. Just last month in Muncie, a Ball State student claimed he and his friends were victims of a hate crime when they were attacked by two people shouting homosexual slurs.

In case you didn’t know, Indiana is one of just five states without sentence enhancements for hate crimes. If local officials want to prosecute someone for a racially motivated attack or destruction of property because of one’s religion, gender, or sexual orientation, sentences can’t be lengthened because of the motive for the attack.

The debate is whether Indiana really needs to have hate-crime legislation on the books – a crime is a crime, right? But when people are targeted because of the color of their skin or their sexuality, it affects the greater community in ways that random incidents of crime may not. You can bet that other minorities who lived near the woman who had the cross burning in her yard were more fearful of it happening to them than non-minorities in the area.

Even though these may be isolated incidents, they still affect the psyche of those around them who may not look at the crime as a random incident, but as an area of town or an establishment where a particular minority isn’t welcome. These crimes show that the Indiana General Assembly needs to pass legislation to allow Indiana to join the other 45 states who have decided crimes motivated by hate deserve tougher penalties.
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  • Do you really think there are crimes that do NOT have an impact on people other than the victim? They all do. If you work in a convenience store and one gets tuck up in the next town and maybe the woman working there is killed, you\'re going to be scared. If cross-burning is worse, make it a Class A felony. Penalties depending on psychoanalysis of the criminal bring back echoes of 1984.
  • You can bet that most individuals doing these crimes are not considering if they live in a state where hate crimes add an additional 5 or tens years to the sentence. Sure, I think it sounds good to know you live in a state where hate crimes are double-time, but is this really going to prevent? This guy got 10 years. Odds are, after 2 months in the joint, this guy would wish he\'d never done the crime. And, I\'m sure he\'d never commit the same crime again after he\'s released. But, in the interest of promoting a state where the perception is everyone is racially playing equal, then by all means pass the legislation. But, the fundamental root cause of these crimes still goes unanswered.
  • The most amazing part of this subject is that 45 states or 90% of our states think that policing the subliminal thoughts of criminals is as important to our criminal justice system as policing actions and intent of criminals. How ridiculous. As pointed out by previous commentators there is no practical additional deterrence, nor is there any victim benefit. So what is the motivation to even have a sentence enhancement? The answer seems quite obvious to me-simply put: vengeance. So we wish to utilize the powerful hand of government to satisfy the emotional reflexes of disgruntled persons or groups with a political ax to grind? Is that the role that we really want adopt? Come on, people. Let\'s get to back to basics. We can\'t even rehabilitate the criminals that we already have behind bars. All we are accomplishing currently is higher criminal education while incarcerated. That is a major problem for our entire society. Wouldn\'t that be a much more worthy aim of added efforts in our criminal justice system?
  • In practice, hate crime enhancements operate to impose greater sentences on white males as a group for the same crimes committed by perpetrators of other groups.

    Is this a denial of equal protection of law-- equal protection for white males?

    Are we trying for a color blind society or one in which white males are punished for the sins of earlier generations?

    If such a law is passed here, will it engender the very bad thoughts that the enhancements are designed to encouraged? In a word, is it counterproductive to its explicit goal?

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