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Punishing Hate

Punishing Hate

Bias Crimes under American Law

Frederick M. Lawrence

ISBN 9780674009721

Publication date: 09/30/2002

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.


  • In this work of advocacy, [Lawrence] argues that 'bias crimes' cause more harm than comparable nonbias crimes (to society as well as to immediate victims) and that it is possible to write laws that will suppress them without violating various constitutional limits...This book has valuable applications because the author explores the various questions that define this controversial policy issue: What is a bias crime? What should the federal role be? Of special value are appendixes setting out the history of the subject and describing state laws in force.

    —P. Lermack, Choice


  • Frederick M. Lawrence is a Senior Research Scholar in Law at Yale Law School.

Book Details

  • 282 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press