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Report says laws against hate crimes in U.S. inconsistent, incomplete

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi listens to remarks during a press conference about the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on May 18. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi listens to remarks during a press conference about the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on May 18. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
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July 28 (UPI) -- Federal and state laws against hate crimes nationwide generally lack uniformity and they often fail to address the root causes of the problem, according to a report Wednesday by equality advocates.

The 54-page report by the Movement Advancement Project gives a side-by-side view of state hate crimes laws, their limitations and an analysis of how well they address the problem.

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The report examined laws across 10 categories -- criminal punishment, statute type, protected categories, institutional vandalism, collateral consequences, non-carceral sentencing, civil action, victim protections, data collection and law enforcement training.

The assessment says some of the challenges of hate crime laws include failing to address the root cause of the violence, widespread bias in the criminal justice system, flaws in hate crime data collection and reporting and changing the original intent of the law.

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"At a time of rising hate violence, we need to re-examine and expand our responses," Ineke Mushovic, executive director of Movement Advancement Project, said in a statement. "Hate crime laws serve a necessary purpose, but they are inconsistent, sometimes flawed, and can even harm the very communities they are meant to serve."

For example, the report said while evidence shows that the majority of hate crimes are committed by White people, many states' law-enforcement-recorded hate crimes disproportionately list Black people as offenders.

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Some entities have also attempted to add police officers as a protected class in hate crime laws, skewering its original intent, the assessment says.

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The report also notes that hate crime laws vary greatly from state to state, meaning someone who experiences a hate crime may have a completely different set of protections, options or access to resources depending on where the crime occurred.  

"We need to improve our hate crime laws and engage in broader solutions to reducing hate in our country," Mushovic said. "Like any law, hate crime laws alone won't fix a problem as large as rising hate violence."

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