Using the Criminal Justice System to Reward Political Support

November 1, 2009

Last Wednesday, President Obama signed a bill into law which adds acts of violence against the disabled, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender folks to the list of federal hate crimes.  This increases coverage of the federal hate crimes protections which previously only included race, religion, and national origin.  In typical Obama euphoria, activist instantaneously proclaimed the measure to be the most important since the civil rights acts empowering blacks were passed in the 1960s. 

Of course, those of us with clearer, less emotional heads on our shoulders know that hate crime legislation is nothing more than politicians pandering to their base of support by providing them with a special interest perk in an effort to energize that base for widespread support at the next election.  Now, maybe that is a little cynical or I am just resentful because I personally do not fall into any of the “protected” categories.  I am from the United States, nominally Christian, white, and a middle aged man.  Now, this is not a knock against folks who are not what I am.  As a matter of fact, I have chosen to live a lifestyle that places me in a small minority of the population of the places where I live.  Thus, I consider myself very tolerant.  The point is that in essence hate crime protection places a greater importance on some lives over others.  More resources will be spent to pursue a murderer that killed another simply because the victim was gay or black or from Haiti.  The offender could spend more time in jail because his crime was motivated by the sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion of the victim.  We have totally politicized the criminal justice system and thrown equal protection of the law out the window by affording special protections to some groups and not others.

I know that our friends on the compassionate left will say, “Hate crimes demand a priority response because of their special emotional and psychological impact on the victim and the victim’s community. The damage done by hate crimes cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and cents. Hate crimes may effectively intimidate other members of the victim’s community, leaving them feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected by the law.”  I hear their argument, but don’t all victims of crime experience a special emotional and psychological impact?  Why isn’t rape included in the protections?

At the end of the day, if someone kills you your just as dead regardless if it was an act of passion, greed, revenge or hate.  Perhaps there are some who hate me for what I write in my blog.  If they kill me for it, too bad, hatred motivated by political speech is not covered under federal hate crimes protection.  Should it be?  My 1st Amendment rights were violated.  See, this is the problem with hate crime legislation.  Instead of just dealing with all criminals appropriately, the politicians would rather use the criminal justice system to score political points.  It is another example of shameful, unconstitutional behavior on their part.

So, what does dealing with criminals appropriately mean?  It means equality under the law – the same judicial process and rights are guaranteed to all.  It means that criminal justice, with certain enumerated exceptions, is solely the domain of the states.  Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution specifies that Congress only has the power to “provide for the punishment of counterfeiting, to define and punish piracy and felonies on the high seas, and to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases over…the seat of the government of the United States.”  Period.  All other crimes are the jurisdiction of the states under the 10 Amendment.  Therefore, Congress and the President have acted unconstitutionally again.

Once criminal justice has been secured to the states, they must reconsider how to deal with criminals.  Those that are dangerous to society without regard to any one special group should be put away.  States need to view crime as a violation against individuals and not necessarily society as a whole.  After all, if I hit your car don’t I owe you and not society?  Why is harm done criminally any different?  For instance, in addition to going to jail murderers should be forced to make reparations (work off their debt) to their victim’s family.  Wouldn’t this make the victim’s family more whole than just putting the killer in jail to live off the fruits of the taxpayer?  In the case of a hate crime, the punishment would be particularly effective and possibly even a deterrent if the potential killer faced serving the kin of his hated victim.  The 13th Amendment to the Constitution would allow this and I for one would then favor the abolition of the death penalty.

If we are truly going to reach our goal of a color blind, gender equal, who cares what your sexual preference is society, then our laws must reflect those values.  We cannot make unjust laws to offset the unjust laws of the past.  Two wrongs do not make a right.  Criminal justice should be secured back to the states anyway.  It is constitutional and that way federal politicians will no longer be able to use the system to reward their political constituencies.