Hate crimes proposal a minuscule step!
MONDAY MATTERS - August 24| Hate crimes bill only a minuscule step!
Action Item: Let your elected representatives and area Chambers know that we need to take active steps to push back on the state of mass incarceration. Let’s be less willing to take away freedom from our neighbors.
State-wide support building for “hate crimes” bill.
You likely saw the Democrat Gazette headline this past week, “[Rogers-Lowell Area] Chamber offer its support for hate-crime bill” sponsored by Sen. Jim Hendren. This support of the bill is also coming from the NW Arkansas Council, the Governor, Attorney General and many others, including being co-sponsored by many Democrats. We are only one of three states without this intentional effort to punish racism-based conduct with up to 20% enhancement of the already existing possible jail time or fines.
But folks – our criminal justice system needs a substantial reworking. This hate-crimes effort, while likely well-intentioned in spirit, reminds me of the of the old reference to “for every step forward, we have two steps back.”
Turns out, there’s lots of peer reviewed journal evidence out there that hate crimes legislation only strengthens mechanisms of state violence against POC, LGBT+ people and more. Because it only expands the carceral state.
Criminal justice system perverted into pipeline to prison.
We need to take a lot more active steps forward – now- to reduce the state of incarceration in Arkansas. Let’s enhance “Land of the Free”. Keep in mind that one of the most daunting aspects of Arkansas’ criminal justice system (like most states over the last 30-40 years) is that we have routinely found so-called “reform” in criminal justice by criminalizing more conduct and by enhancement of punishments; i.e. setting higher minimum sentences and expanding the length of potential sentences. The result is that prosecuting attorneys have an incredible range of sentencing which gives them a disproportional bargaining position during plea bargaining. A simple example is an Arkansas law that is found under the topic of “Gangs” that makes it a Y Felony (the most serious felony in our State) for a person to simultaneously possess a gun (even if per Second Amendment – and even if legally purchased) and any amount of any drug (including possession of small amount of marijuana). What is disproportional is that violation of this law exposes a person to a MINIMUM of 10 years in prison, up to LIFE in prison. My contention is that any law that provides that range of punishment should ONLY apply to very egregious and dangerous conduct – not the 2nd Amendment gun-owning person who happens to indulge in the consumption of illegal substances. But that is our state of affairs. This is but one example.
For a thorough review of substantial changes that are immediately warranted – and that will have the desired effect of enhancing safety while reducing incarceration, review the Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition’s “Suggested Path To Restructuring Policing In Washington and Benton Counties” (attached to my Blog at www.joncomstockforarkansas.com).