Hate Crimes against PWD

The FBI recently released the 2008 Hate Crimes Statistics report, summarizing hate crime data from over 13,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States. The Attorney General is required to compile and report on this data yearly. Although the majority of hate crimes are based on race, it includes reporting on crimes “motivated by disability bias,” which made up 1 percent of the reported incidents.

Of the total 9,168 hate crime offenses in the report, 85 were on the basis of disability: 28 against a person with a physical disability and 57 against a person with a mental disability. The most common offenses were “Simple assault” and “Intimidation,” with a number of “Vandalism” incidents also. The vast majority of incidents took place in the victim’s residence or home. This mirrors the overall data – the majority of all hate crimes regardless of basis were assaults and intimidation taking place in or near the victim’s residence or home.

What is most clear from the report is that the majority of crimes committed against people with disabilities are not considered or categorized as hate crimes on the basis of disability. The US Department of Justice released a 2007 report on crime against people with disabilities finding that in one year, approximately 716,000 nonfatal violent crimes and 2.3 million property crimes were committed against people with disabilities. Even considering that only one in five PWD crime victims “believed that they became a victims because of their disability,” these numbers are an order of magnitude larger that then total crimes against PWD listed in the hate crime statistics.

Whether crimes against people with disabilities should be considered hate crimes is a difficult and complicated question. One on hand, the DOJ report demonstrates that the rate of nonfatal violent crimes against PWD was 1.5 higher than the rate for TABs, with the rate of crimes against women with disabilities almost twice the rate for TAB women. It is hard to imagine that disparities this significant are unrelated to disability status.

At the same time, I am concerned about giving more power to the criminal justice system. I read a compelling piece at The Bilerico Project recently which, while focus on trans issues, seems relevant to this discussion:

No one can deny that particular groups are in fact treated with discrimination and even violence. But rather than ask how about how to combat such discrimination and violence, we’ve taken the easy route out and decided to hand over the solution to a prison industrial complex that already benefits massively from the incarceration of mostly poor people and mostly people of color. It’s also worth considering the class dynamics of hate crimes legislation, given that the system of law and order is already skewed against those without the resources to combat unfair and overly punitive punishment and incarceration.

What do you think – should crimes against PWDs? be punished as hate crimes? Is that an effective way to address and prevent continued crimes against PWDs?

By 6 December, 2009.    justice, normality, politics, violence   



6 Comments

  1. I think it should be included in the hate crime laws. Of course, some people are still mad about “sexuality” being on there as well.

    Some people object to the idea of hate crime laws entirely, I don’t. (“The person mugging me isn’t doing it out of love!”) Hate crimes have two functions – to commit the crime (beat the person up) and spread fear throughout the community targeted. Also, I remember reading that hate crime cases mean that underfunded police departments can get some federal help.

    I also wonder how many hate crimes against PWD are against more than one group – are they also targeted for their race, gender, religion, or anything else that forms their identity?

    As for prevention – my first thought is education. We have got to fight against stereotypes. A mentally ill man may be attacked because another committed a violent crime, therefore, all NAT are violent. If we can reverse this kind of thinking, we can prevent a lot of crimes against NAT/PWD.

    But is a crime of opportunity – “zie can’t chase me, I’ll just snatch this” – against a PWD also a hate crime? I think it could be – it would make the victim and others feel afraid to go out, or go out alone.

  2. i always feel torn in these discussions.

    -i do not like the criminal justice system as it stands. so just adding extra charges to this system, not much of a help.
    -i DO think that the very term “hate crime” raises awareness in a real way. i DO think that when someone is tried for that crime, it sends a message to the larger community. i DO think that the term, itself, is highly useful.

  3. I definitely think that crimes against people with disabilities should be considered “hate crimes” — this designation gives an added weight and seriousness to the situation. So, yes, I agree with amandaw about the (quoting)

    “hate crime raising awareness in real way”

    or, at least it has the possibility to. This “raising awareness” can depend on how people react — i.e. the media’s angle on the story of the “hate crime” and/or the public’s attitude towards it.

  4. I think as long as hate crime laws exist we will need to be in thee because otherwise we wouldn’t be treated equally to other groups. At the same time the “justice” system is terrible in so many ways that we need to look to other solutions.

    I don’t know that education helps hate. (And that can make it sound like uneducated people are more hateful.)

    I also don’t think the number of hate crimes will ever be truly counted. I know someone who is subject to what I consider a hate crime right now: she is being denied lifesaving medical treatment by doctors who think she is more or less half dead already, being a gimp and all. But when hate crimes are counted people don’t count that kind of thing. Which I bet is more common than more traditional kinds. We are “lives that are already being prolonged artificially,” and all that, which is hate and contempt all over.

  5. “therefore, all NAT are violent”

    I was once in a discussion regarding invisible disabilities with a feminist group, human dignity group, and a disabled accessibility group (mobile disabilities) all of whom adamantly refused to be inclusive of people with invisible disabilities, “they are dangerous”. “Public safety issues, need to get them off of the streets”.

    Just because we hear on the news that a white man robbed a gas station do then believe that all white men rob gas? stations?

  6. About white people committing crimes or being jerks on tv/radio/whatever – people who normally expect a minority group to do something after a minority does something bad – they get really mad if you turn the tables and start randomly apologizing for Tim McVeigh, the Unabomber, Eric Rudolph, and that guy who held up the mini-mart last week.