Bill Would Increase Penalties for Crimes Motivated by Hate

In an effort to stem the alarming increase in hate crimes, a bill has been introduced in Congress to allow federal judges to increase the penalties for those found guilty of this type of crime.

Known as the Hate Crime Sentencing Enhancement Act of 1992, the bill was introduced in by Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Paul Simon (D-III.).

A hate crime is defined as one “in which the defendant’s conduct was motivated by hatred, bias or prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation of another individual or group of individuals.”

At a news conference last week led by Simon and Schumer, and attended by members of police organizations, members of various groups reported on the sharp increase in hate crimes.

Jess Hordes, director of the Washington office of the Anti-Defamation League, said that the ADL’s annual report for 1991 listed more than 1,600 anti-Semitic incidents, the highest number since the organization began keeping statistics.

There was a striking increase in anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses, he added.

A total of 1,822 incidents of anti-gay violence, ranging from harassment to homicide, were documented last year in five major metropolitan areas, said Kevin Berrill of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute.

Increased attacks against Asian-Americans, largely a result of “Japan bashing,” were reported by Sonya Chung of the Japanese American Citizens League and Daphne Kwok of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

Simon and Schumer were also co-sponsors of the 1990 Hate Crimes Statistic Act, which requires the Justice Department to keep records of the number of hate crimes.

There is now a need to go a step further than just keeping track of statistics, Simon said.

Schumer said a message must be sent that “if you commit a bias crime, you’re going to pay for it and pay for it hard on the federal level.”

The ADL’s Hordes said that 46 states and the District of Columbia have laws dealing with hate violence, including two dozen penalty-enhancement provisions.

“We believe increasing penalties for federal crimes motivated by prejudice will have a deterrent impact, and send the message to both perpetrators and victims that society will not tolerate these odious crimes, ” Hordes said.

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