1. Hate criminals are more likely to reoffend, so hate crimes require a "higher threshold of deterrability."To #1 and 2, Adams argues that the intention to commit harm has no necessary connection to the justifying aim of punishment. Even if the methods of a hate crime are more brutal or terrifying, the methods, not the prejudicial belief, should be the ground of punishment, so no special enhancement is necessary. (A person who tortures random victims for sport is as evil, in this reckoning, as a person who tortures women out of misogyny.)
2. Hate criminals are more dangerous.
3. Hate crimes would otherwise be underinvestigated.
4. Victims of hate crimes would otherwise be less likely to receive--or seek--police protection.
5. Victims of hate crimes are more vulnerable; the law recognizes stiffer punishments for other victimized groups, including children and the elderly.
Furthermore, Adams argues that, against #1 and #2, hate criminals as a class are not unique.
There seems to be little reason to think that those who act from hateful beliefs and desires invariably are more dangerous, more brutal, or more likely to victimize the defenseless than those who act from other sets of beliefs and desires. And there is little evidence that bigotry inevitably gives rise to intentions to bring about worse harms than would otherwise obtain as a consequence of the bare intention to harm, nor that the intentions of bigots, as contrasted with unprejudiced criminals, are necessarily more firmly held or reflect greater purposefulness.Adams' argument finds support in an article titled "Distinctive Characteristics of Assaults Motivated by Bias," written by Steven Messner and Suzanne McHugh, in the August 2004 issue of Criminology. Despite the title, the authors find very little that distinguishes hate criminals from ordinary criminals. They are, rather, equal-opportunity violators. Analyzing 11 states' data from the National Incident Based Reporting System, they conclude:
The evidence from this study suggests that bias offenders and conventional offenders are more similar than different in the most common forms of bias offenses. Offenders--no matter which type--are at least as likely, and perhaps more likely, to engage in other illegal activity, as reflected in drug use. In addition, the situational characteristics of bias offenses, at least the ones we have been able to examine, are not so different from those of conventional assault. Bias assaults, like other assaults, typically involve intoxicated offenders targeting men. In short, while there are undoubtedly unique features of some of the assaults motivated by group hatred, the evidence points more to their similarity to other forms of violence.Returning to Adams' list above, #3 and #4 might fall outside the scope of justice, depending on how the affirmative defines it (retributive justice, for example, looks backward, not forward, when justifying punishment). #5 smacks of stereotyping; there might be no good reason why ethnic identity or sexual orientation would make a victim more vulnerable.
Your comments and questions, as always, are welcome.