January 14, 2017

California hate crimes registry a bad idea: Guest commentary

1-14-17 California:

State Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-San Fernando, recently introduced legislation that would “establish the California Hate Crimes Registry,” as his office put it. The registry his Assembly Bill 39 envisions would aim to provide a public database of individuals convicted of hate crimes in California.

Bocanegra claims, “The Hate Crime Registry will be an important public safety tool to better protect individuals and communities from hate crimes, help reverse this deeply troubling trend, and significantly reduce hate crimes in California.”

He cites statistics from a California Department of Justice report, which finds the number of reported “hate crime” incidents increased a little over 10 percent from 2014 to 2015, from 758 in 2014 to 837 in 2015. However, Bocanegra fails to note that actual convictions for hate crime offenses in California are very low. Indeed, the same DOJ report shows there were only 59 hate crime convictions in California in 2015.

With such a large discrepancy between the number of reported hate crimes and convictions for hate crimes, one should be cautious forming policy. And there are a couple of additional issues that make this bill fundamentally flawed. First, there are basic problems with hate crime laws, and second, registries are ineffective and unfair.

Hate crime laws jumble the distinction between bad actions and bad thoughts. Criminal enhancements, like longer prison sentences, for perceived thoughts, motivations or feelings are hard to disprove from a criminal defendant’s standpoint. How can one argue against the state that “hate” didn’t motivate a certain action? And how do we define “hate”? ..Continue.. by Lauren Krisai

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