IU study finds hate crime charges rarely, unequally filed in bias homicides

NOW: IU study finds hate crime charges rarely, unequally filed in bias homicides


SOUTH BEND, Ind. – A new study from Indiana University suggests a hate crimes law may not be utilized as frequently as one would think.

Researchers at the Indiana University Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy studied more than 300 bias homicides across the U.S. from 1990 to 2016.

The study found even in states with a bias crimes law that specifies victim groups, bias charges are often not pursued.

According to the study, prosecutors did not filed bias charges in 68.8 percent of the cases.

When charges were filed, they weren’t filed equally among victim groups.

Researchers found prosecutors were more likely to file bias charges in anti-religion cases than in anti-race/ethnicity, anti-national/immigrant, and anti-sexual orientation/ gender identity crimes. That’s despite anti-sexual orientation/gender identity and anti-race/ ethnicity accounting for a the majority of bias homicides.

“Our goal isn’t necessarily to make people for or against as much as really think as effectively as they can about what the impact might be,” said IU Center for Research on Inclusion and Social Policy Director Brenca Merritt. “Our research did not go as deep as to figure out whether one is effective or not, but hopefully, again it’s incumbent upon people who are interesting [in this] to do some more research and see what’s out there to help inform what they would like to do on either side.”

Indiana lawmakers continue to wrestle with the future of SB 12. It’s the controversial hate crimes bill that passed through the Indiana Senate in February. The bill now awaits committee in the Indiana House of Representatives.  

“There are a lot of folks to be considered in this process,” said Merritt. “Understand that it’s not as simple as passing something and seeing it work. There’s a lot of pieces that go into this process that should be considered.”

H.R. Jung is the director of the LGBTQ Center in South Bend. He calls this study’s finding frustrating and wants to know bias crime laws aren’t being used more often.

“It’s important for those to be there to basically say, ‘Yes we recognize that this is an issue, we recognize that this is a problem and we’re finding ways to find those solutions to move forward,’” said Jung. “When you strip those out, you’re basically saying it doesn’t matter”

Jung said this study may leave groups specified under a hate crimes law feeling like the people responsible for protecting them don’t care.

“Prosecutors who are there to protect the community are telling the community, you know, we don’t think it’s important and you’re not important and I think that’s really kind of where it gets to and becomes a disservice to the community,” said Jung.  

Researchers laid out three recommendations for policy makers moving forward.

To read what they are and learn more about the study click here.

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