Hate Crime on Staten Island

Four white men have been are being questioned in an attack on Black man that is being investigated as a hate crime, The New York Times is reporting. The attack occurred Tuesday night on Staten Island, a borough of New York City.

For those interested in reading more about hate crimes in the scholarly literature, I’d point you in the direction of Jack Levin and Jack McDevitt’s work. Their 1993 book, Hate Crimes: The Rising Tide of Bigotry and Bloodshed, and their 2002 follow-up, Hate Crimes Revisited: America’s War Against Those who are Different, really set the standard in this field.

In my reading of this literature, a few of things are worthy of note. First, the perpetrators of hate crimes are most often not members of organized hate groups. Second, the perpetrators are most often individual or small groups of young, white males. And, third, there’s very little in the literature about how to effectively “rehabilitate” perpetrators, not to mention “intervene and prevent” (to use the language of public health) hate crimes. For example, in a 2003 article by Steinberg, Brooks and Remtulla, they found that:

Although limited information is available about the causative factors of hatred, a variety of prevention and intervention strategies have been employed. Yet, little has been done to evaluate these various initiatives. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of literature available to guide mental health professionals in the identification, evaluation, and treatment of offenders, despite increasing concerns and awareness regarding the profound consequences of acts of hatred and extremism.

In other words, there’s very little evidence that the kinds of sentences that hate crime offenders are frequently given – such as talking with Holocaust survivors – are at all effective in preventing future offenses. While there’s certainly a critique to be made about a “mental health” approach to hate crimes, I find it striking that there’s so little research in this area. Sounds like a great dissertation idea for someone.

UPDATE: Prosecutor fails to indict on ‘hate crime,’ charges simple assault instead.  Protest planned.  More here.