Monday, April 30, 2007
Criminal Law and Identity Politics
by James B. Jacobs and Kimberly Potter
This book places in socio-legal perspective both the hate crime problem and society's response to it.
From the outset, Jacobs and Potter adopt a skeptical if not critical stance. They argue that hate crime is a hopelessly muddled concept and that legal definitions of the term are riddled with ambiguity and subjectivity. Moreover, no matter how hate crime is defined, the authors find no evidence to support the claim that the US is experiencing a hate crime epidemic--nor that the number or rate of hate crimes is at an historic zenith. Furthermore, assert the authors, the federal effort to establish a hate crime accounting system has been a failure.
The underlying conduct that hate crime law prohibits is already subject to criminal punishment. Jacobs and Potter maintain that there is no persuasive rationale for saying that hate crimes are "worse" or "more serious" than similar crimes attributable to other anti-social motivations.