“Homeless” to soon be a protected class in Connecticut

Conn. lawmakers are on the verge of making it a hate crime to ‘intimidate or harass’ the homeless.  Let me be clear up front.  It’s obviously wrong to intimidate or harass anyone, more so the more vulnerable among us.  I have stated previously that I oppose the idea of hate crimes in the first place.  It elevates some people to a plane higher than others.  It effectively makes some people more equal than others. Classifying harassment of the homeless as a hate crime is a leap too far, even for the thought police.

(WTNH) — Connecticut lawmakers are proposing to add intimidation or harassment of homeless people to the category of hate crimes.

The state House of Representatives passed the bill Thursday by a 112-32 vote. It now moves to the Senate.

The crime would be considered a class C felony, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Categorizing a crime as a hate crime enhances penalties for repeat offenders, permits courts to order offenders to participate in anti-bias programs, and gives alleged victims a civil action for triple damages.

The state currently considers hate crimes to be those committed on the basis of a victim’s actual or perceived race, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.

I wonder, would refusing the request for spare change or responding with the clichéd ‘Get a job!’ qualify as harassment or intimidation?  After all, that’s all in the eye of the beholder isn’t it?

Am I wrong about this, am I missing something? Are hate crime laws just? If so, is ‘homeless’ a class worthy to be on the list?

Comments

  1. I can understand the impulse to increase punishment for the harassment of the homeless, especially if it is becoming a big problem (I have no idea if it is) but classifying it as a hate crime is probably the wrong mechanism to do so.

    • Steven

      I dont see much harassment and I dont hear or read much about it either. Im not sure what the impetus for this move is.

      • I grew up in a small town and the only physical violence that took place was domestic violence and teenagers beating up the two or three homeless guys who lived in our town. They appeared to be more vulnerable to abuse than most. Of course, this is anecdotal, I have no idea the real numbers or if there is a problem in Conn. My real point is that I can understand the desire to protect the more vulnerable with harsher penalties. I’m with you on the larger point, though.

  2. Hate should not be a prosecutable offense. I can hate a stranger without their knowledge, and therefore without affecting them in any way. Only actions should be considered prosecutable.

    Beating someone. That’s an actionable offense. But is it worse to beat someone because you hate them, or because you want to steal their wallet? Would anyone support “greed crime” legislation? How does one’s reason for hurting someone make the attack worse?

    Hate can be a motive for committing a crime and should be considered when determining someone’s guilt. But then, hate could be a motive for simply leaving someone alone. How does that fit in?

    I think the severity of punishment for actual crimes should be left to the discretion of juries. Certainly, we can take them case by case without adding to it a racial test that may not have anything to do with the crime, other than the mere presence of racial difference.

  3. “how does one’s reason for hurting someone make the attack worse?”

    There is a long history in American law of looking at intent in crimes, for instance, crimes of passion vs. planner murder when handing out punishment. It’s “worse” to plan to run someone down with a car than to do so accidentally, even though the result might be the same. So the idea of weighing “hate” as a category of intent isn’t really that far out of scope with “traditional” criminal justice. I agree that hate, by itself, shouldn’t be a crime, but I don’t think anyone is suggesting it should be.

    In the business world, there really are such things as “greed crimes” in a sense. If I accidentally make a mistake on my time card at work, it is likely not going to be prosecuted. If I do so with intent to steal from the company (because of greed) than that is going to receive a harsher penalty. Simply intending to steal isn’t a crime, but if I do steal with the intent to defraud (as opposed to simple carelessness) than it really is “worse” from a legal perspective.

    • What if it wasn’t greed, but need? I cheat my boss out of every penny I can to pay for my kid’s life-saving medicine. I suppose that would be a “love crime”. It may make the criminal better than a greed motivated one, but the crime is exactly the same. It’s theft/fraud.

      Hate is a crime in hate crimes. If additional punishment is given, then we’re punishing thoughts and feelings. That’s not what we do, here.

      One problem with the idea is that it’s hard to prove, but easy to say. Another problem is that we’re saying that certain thoughts to be crimes. What other attitudes might be punishable? Political affiliation? Why not?

  4. paynehollow says:

    re: Is there a problem with homeless-targeted-violence?

    Yes, there is. At least in some major cities. We work with the homeless here in Louisville, KY and we hear about it all the time. Usually, it’s young punks who think it’s funny to beat up homeless guys. Crazy.

    So, I’ve seen/heard about it anecdotally and the National Coalition to End Homelessness has documented more officially. You can read about it here.

    I don’t know about making “homeless” a protected class, but maybe it makes some sense. I definitely agree with the concept of legal protected classes.

    The problem is not as simple as “This person was beat up or murdered and that person did it.” If one person is randomly killed, that is a tragedy and has awful ramifications. BUT, if you systematically target groups, that has an additional harm, in that a whole class of people are under threat specifically for being in that class. It seems to me to be a separate crime with its own separate harms and, thus, reasonably made legally distinct, apart from just random murder/assault.

    ~Dan Trabue

    • First, splc is a joke, I dont even read those links anymore.

      Second, believing in protected classes boils down to “its worse to beat up a black/gay/jew/etc. because you hate them than it is to beat up a white guy because you hate him” because the white guy is not a protected class.

      Protected classes fundamentally make some people more valuable than others. Its an awful policy.

      But Ct does not have a problem with attacks on the homeless.

  5. paynehollow says:

    First, the link is referencing a NCEH study and they are quite serious.

    Second, SPLC is a good (not perfect) organization and it’s sad you choose to mock them, for they do good work.

    Third, “white guy” IS a protected class. One can’t target a person based on race (ANY race) without being prone to being charged with a hate crime.

    Fourth, protected classes do not make some people more valuable than others. They protect against a crime. It’s one crime to beat up a random guy. It’s another crime altogether to systematically attack black, white, gay, straight, Muslim, Christian people because of their group, with other, additional harms being done. We create laws to protect against unjust harm. Thus, the concept seems entirely sound to me.

    Finally, on what do you base your claim that CT does not have a problem with attacks on the homeless? I don’t know that there is or isn’t a problem there, but studies (and personal experience) shows that there IS a problem in the US in general.

    If you have no data with which to support your claim about Connecticut’s homeless, perhaps you’ll understand if we don’t take your hunch too seriously?

    ~Dan

  6. paynehollow says:

    As an off-topic aside (feel free to delete if you want), I wonder how much you actually oppose the SPLC’s actions? For instance, this…

    Victoria and Jason Keenan were chased and shot at by members of the Aryan Nations in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Held at gunpoint, the mother and son feared for their lives. The Center sued and obtained a $6.3 million jury verdict; Aryan Nations was forced to turn its compound over to the victims it had terrorized.

    Did the SPLC do a bad thing there by suing those poor aryan nation thugs and “taking” their property from them? Or other actions of a similar nature? Do I agree with everything they do? No (for one, I don’t know everything they do, but if I did, probably I would disagree with some of their actions). But does that make these folk who by all appearances are working for justice for poor people a bad group of people, or their organization a “joke…”? If so, I’d say we need more jokes like that.

    God bless the good they do.

    ~Dan

    • The splc labels christian organizations hate groups if they dont support same sex marriage, for instance.

      Not that I didnt already know youd pick an example like that instead of the nonhate groups they label just because they are on the nonliberal side of an issue.

  7. paynehollow says:

    They don’t label “Christian organizations” as a whole “hate groups,” John. They target specific the language of specific groups. Have they targeted your church? Have they targeted any of the tens of thousands of churches out there who disagree with marriage equity. It’s rather disingenuous of you to try to make them out as anti-Christian-as-a-group. On the other hand, taking on particular groups and what they’ve said, well, with that, you could get into specifics and we may agree or disagree once we get to specifics.

    But all of that is an aside, the on-topic point is that there are studies by serious groups that have demonstrated a rise in attacks/assaults/rapes/murders of targeted homeless people. If this vulnerable group is being targeted for specific crimes, why would we decent people not target that targeting as the additional crime that it is?

    ~Dan

    • there is no epidemic of the sort in CT. Not only is it not in the news, 8 years ago when I was in law enforcement in a large urban CT city, the crimes involving the homeless were committed by them, not committed against them.

      It’s a contrived problem.

      But your beloved SPLC labeled the Family Research Council a hate group, which prompted a domestic terrorist to attack their headquarters, for instance.

  8. paynehollow says:

    If you want to go down the off-topic trail of defending (or not) the SPLC, I just looked up a sampling of the groups that they’ve labeled “hate groups…”

    …in August 2009 when it was reported that in [Faithful Word Baptist Church] Pastor Anderson’s sermon “Why I hate Barack Obama” he had been praying for the death of the president… Anderson told columnist Michelangelo Signorile that he “would not judge or condemn” anyone who killed the president… KNXV-TV reported that the day after the “Why I hate Barack Obama” sermon, a member of the church, Chris Broughton, was carrying an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and a pistol at the Phoenix Convention Center when President Barack Obama spoke. Broughton explained that he was not motivated by the sermon although he agreed with it.

    Lovely group of people. Let’s see, who else…? Of course, there are the Westboro Baptists, but that’s too easy. How about the Family Research Council…?

    …As evidence, the SPLC cited a 1999 publication by the FRC, Homosexual Activists Work to Normalize Sex With Boys, which claimed: “one of the primary goals of the homosexual rights movement is to abolish all age of consent laws and to eventually recognize pedophiles as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order.”

    Hmmm, certainly offensive and misleading and demonizing, but “hate group…”? I would probably disagree with the SPLC on this one. The mere disagreeing with gay behavior should not make you a “hate group” – and the SPLC doesn’t label groups that way for merely disagreeing. But still, this seems to water down the notion of “hate group.” It’s offensive, stupid and should be called out as the falsehood it is, but that does not seem to rise to the level of hate group (and I know it’s not the one comment, but many things, but still, my point is, I would probably disagree with the SPLC on this one.

    And I’m sure there are other points where I’d disagree with them. I just don’t think that their making some bad calls outweighs the great good they have done and continue to do. They are not, in my mind, a “joke” and it seems a bit of overkill on your part to dismiss them, just as it seems a bit of overkill on the SPLC’s part to label some of these groups “hate groups.”

    In other words, are you doing the same thing that you’re criticizing?

    ~Dan

  9. The idea that only a specific group is “terrorized” when one theirs is attacked as a result of being part of the group, is crap. How can the “terror” be measured and made distinct from the terror of someone else not of that group but because of that attack? That is to say, if a homosexual, black person or “homeless” guy was attacked in front of my house, does the terror my wife and daughters might feel not matter? If the victim was a neighbor, any normal human being would feel empathy for the neighbor’s situation. It’s nonsensical and an invented excuse to favor a group, or to elevate the group to whatever degree possible.

    But what’s really ironic here, so Dan should love this, is that those like John, C2C and myself, are quite content with holding a perpetrator accountable for his crime regardless of why and against whom. If a homosexual gets his ass kicked, I want the kicker to be held accountable, not because he “hates fags”, but because he dared kicked the ass of a fellow human being without a legitimate reason. If a black family has a cross burned on their lawn, I want the perps held accountable, not because they “hate niggahs”, but because they are terrorizing fellow human beings and vandalizing their property. Dan thinks their sexual preference or skin color entitles them to special considerations. We don’t. Either we are all equal under the law or we aren’t. Hate crimes laws says we aren’t.

  10. paynehollow says:

    “Special considerations…”? No, just justice. And causing harm specifically to a specific class of people is a separate harm and should be, we the people have decided, a separate crime. Reasonably so.

    If the Group Z were being specifically systematically targeted and murdered in my neighborhood, my neighborhood would be terrorized, to be sure, but the Z group would have a special and much greater fear.

    Separate crime, held accountable separately. Reasonably so.

    John, the studies show clear increases in attacks on homeless people. Now, you can say “Nah, nah, nah, I can’t hear you!” and deny the studies, but what does that say about your concern for justice and truth?

    ~Dan

    • Dan

      Maybe ill use your excuse and say the studies just show a coincidence. That its not the homeless who are being victimized more but rather people with dirty clothes and that just HAPPENS to be the homeless more often than not. A better solution is to encourage clean clothes.

  11. I think many readers here don’t fully understand the idea behind “Hate Crime” laws.

    The purpose is around prevention and protection when there is evidence that specific groups are being intentionally targeted by violent, threatening behavior. A Hate Crime only occurs when someone is attacked / threatened because of who they are. For example, if I were to get into an argument with someone who happens to be homeless and it escalated into a fight, this wouldn’t be a “Hate Crime.” But if I saw a homeless guy on the street and thought to myself, “gee whiz, I sure do hate homeless people” and proceeded to attack him… Well that’s a hate crime.

    This stuff happens people! There are countless news stories of homeless folks being set on fire, peed on, beat up by teens, etc. What do you think lynching was? A glorious part of our history, or hateful, twisted acts carried out SOLELY because of hate towards African Americans?

    The creation of Hate Crime laws isn’t to create special rights for people, but to acknowledge that certain groups are subjected to hateful attacks. Because of their vulnerability, the Hate Crime statute is a disincentive to anyone who might attack a person solely out of Hate.

    • Nate

      I appreciate your attempt to explain the laws intention. I understand the intention. The problem is when the intention is forewent and the law is used to put a cushion of “protection” around certain groups who are totally immune from malice.

      If im in a bar and say im just drunk off my ass and a gay guy spills a drink on me and I respond by pummeling him. All he has to do is say I uttered an antigay slur just before the first punch and im guilty until proven innocent of a hate crime. This is the problem.

  12. The reality is that Hate Crime laws have been used VERY sparingly in Connecticut. The example you just gave, while feasible (that someone might lie), just doesn’t happen, and if it did… Well the claim would hold no merit unless the gentleman had some proof that you uttered a homophobic comment while pummeling.

    If you’re going to start there (drink spilling incident), then you could continue on with a billion examples of lying to exploit the law. But that seems extreme, doesn’t it? Then all laws are at-risk, and I’m sure there are some laws out there that you protect you on a daily basis.

    My advice, don’t pummel people just because they spill a drink on you – that’ll ensure that no claims of hate can be raised. (I’m being a smart ass, but come on, do you really worry about people making up shit and lying just to harm you?)

  13. So how does uttering a homophobic comment when drunk indicate real hatred on the part of the drunk? Seems to me, that if some drunk got pissed at the clumsy homosexual, he might indeed call him “fag” without even knowing the guy is actually a homosexual. Then what? The whole idea is ludicrous and supported by ludicrous people. If someone attacks another person, who cares what the reason is? The law already punishes assault and battery, murder and a host of other crimes that are hateful by nature. This idea that whole groups of people would be “terrorized” because someone or some group attacked them because of sexual orientation, homelessness, race or whatever, is hype and irrelevant even if true. I just don’t see such a motive as making the act worse than if compelled by any other motive. It’s idiocy codified into law.

  14. paynehollow says:

    You are obviously unfamiiar or woefully ignorant of American (and world) history, Marshall. The Night Riders/Klan types spread terrorism specifically and deliberately to minority groups with a chilling ADDITIONAL harm being done specifically to the group. Recognizing this and holding people accountable for this additional crime (when the evidence is there to support it) is rational, moral and just.

    ~Dan

  15. paynehollow says:

    …and refusing to recognize this additional crime is intellectual laziness and cowardice, codified out of law, seems to me.

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