Many issues impacted by hate crimes can be informed by psychological research. For example, are hate crimes more harmful than other kinds of crime? Why do people commit hate crimes? What can be done to prevent or lessen the impact of hate and bias-motivated crimes? This briefing paper is designed to inform the public policy debate on hate crime with knowledge gained from psychological research. Social scientific research is beginning to yield information on the nature of crimes committed because of real or perceived differences in race, religion, ethnicity or national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender.
What is a hate crime?
Current federal law defines hate crimes as any felony or crime of violence that manifests prejudice based on “race, color, religion, or national origin” (18 U.S.C. §245). Hate crimes can be understood as criminal conduct motivated in whole or in part by a negative opinion or attitude toward a group of persons. Hate crimes involve a specific aspect of the victim’s identity (e.g., race). Hate crimes are not simply biases, they are dangerous actions motivated by biases (e.g., cross burnings, physical assault).
October 23, 2009
American Psychological Association Applauds Congress For Passage of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act