Letter: Hate crime legislation in Indiana not needed

From: Larry Boxler


I respectfully disagree with Bob Pitman that Indiana must pass hate crime legislation. There is little evidence that hate crime laws act as deterrents. As an example, the Pulse night club shooting cited by Mr. Pitman was committed in Florida, a state that already has hate crime laws in place. Hate crime laws seem to serve only one purpose, and that is vengeance. Longtime gay activist Bill Dobbs wrote in a 2012 opinion piece in the New York Times, “Seeking another pound of flesh has us veering toward vengeance rather than justice.” It is bad policy to put into law something that merely serves to placate a need for revenge.

As someone who thinks that the current justice system leads to too much incarceration and too little rehabilitation, I also believe that handing prosecutors and judges another tool to use to increase prison time is a bad idea. Using Florida as an example again, in 1991 a black man had a hate crime statute used against him because he used a racial slur toward a white officer while being arrested. Clearly this isn’t what hate crime advocates usually envision when they ask for these types of laws, but once they are in the hands of the state, they can be used against the residents in unexpected ways.

I would suggest that rather than being an embarrassment, Indiana’s lack of hate crime legislation should be lauded as an example of judicious restraint over the state’s power to increase prison sentences and the possible abuses that go with that power. Racism and homophobia are deplorable prejudices, but social problems don’t get solved by the longer prison sentences advanced by hate crime legislation. Instead we would be better served by looking for better ways to help the victims of crime to recover and on rehabilitating offenders so they can reintegrate into society. For the reasons cited above, I would encourage anyone who favors a more restorative view of justice to ask their legislator to reject the hate crime legislation proposed for the current legislative session.