Hate Crime and Punishment

Why Typical Punishment Does Not Fit the Crime

This Note explores the arguments for and against hate crime laws, ultimately determining that changes are necessary to balance the harm to victims and the burden on offenders caused by enhanced penalties. Hate crime laws provide for enhanced penalties when the perpetrator is motivated by hatred of the victim’s race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. This Note details the history of hate crime laws in the United States and sets out the debate surrounding them. On one side of the debate are those who support enhanced punishments because of the despicable nature of hate crimes. The other side has advocated for abandoning hate crime laws, arguing that such laws incorrectly punish hateful thoughts.This Note also includes an extensive look at philosophical theories of punishment, and how enhanced penalties for hate crimes fit within these theories. This Note ultimately concludes that effective punishment must involve elements that change the hateful mindset of the perpetrator. Finally, this Note asserts that hate crime punishment must be just, only punishing criminals in proportion to the harm that they have caused.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.