Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes under American Law

Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes under American Law

Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes under American Law

Punishing Hate: Bias Crimes under American Law


Bias crimes are a scourge on our society. Is there a more terrifying image in the mind's eye than that of the burning cross? Punishing Hate examines the nature of bias-motivated violence and provides a foundation for understanding bias crimes and their treatment under the U. S. legal system.

In this tightly argued book, Frederick Lawrence poses the question: Should bias crimes be punished more harshly than similar crimes that are not motivated by bias? He answers strongly in the affirmative, as do a great many scholars and citizens, but he is the first to provide a solid theoretical grounding for this intuitive agreement, and a detailed model for a bias crimes statute based on the theory. The book also acts as a strong corrective to recent claims that concern about hate crimes is overblown. A former prosecutor, Lawrence argues that the enhanced punishment of bias crimes, with a substantial federal law enforcement role, is not only permitted by doctrines of criminal and constitutional law but also mandated by our societal commitment to equality.

Drawing upon a wide variety of sources, from law and criminology, to sociology and social psychology, to today's news, Punishing Hate will have a lasting impact on the contentious debate over treatment of bias crimes in America.


My interest in understanding and combating racism and other forms of bigotry goes back before my career at Boston University, to my stint as an Assistant United States Attorney in New York, and indeed before that as well. I share with many a deeply felt intuition that bias crimes are in some sense worse than otherwise similar crimes that lack bias motivation. The very depth of this widely shared intuition, however, raises an ironic question about the nature of this book: some have suggested to me that the book's dimensions are necessarily limited, because for work about bias crimes to be truly path-breaking it must disprove, rather than embrace, the shared intuition.

There is another new path for scholarly work, one that seeks to establish a firm theoretical, philosophical, and legal grounding for the shared intuition. I fear that much contemporary scholarship celebrates the counterintuitive. My work, or at least this book, does not. I hope that Punishing Hate does indeed break new ground, offering a theoretical argument about a vital contemporary topic that has not been offered before. I have been told that people interested in this topic will be sympathetic to my conclusions, and thus attracted to this book. The attraction, however, should begin but not end with this sympathy. It is the persuasiveness of the argument and the comprehensiveness of the discussion by which this, or any, book should be judged.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.