Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

SB-604

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING HATE CRIMES.

Vote Date:

3/24/2008

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable

PH Date:

3/17/2008

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

Currently, Connecticut's hate crime statutes do not make it a discriminatory practice or a crime to hang a noose on public or private property. This bill is necessary to strengthen Connecticut's hate crime statutes to make it a felony to display a noose with intent to intimidate or harass and address recently reported hate crimes. As a result, the bill will serve as a clear statement that the state will not tolerate acts of bigotry and racism.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

Division of Criminal Justice-Supports the bill. The bill clarifies our hate crime statutes with regard to the display of nooses. The bill would make it a crime to display a noose with the intent to intimidate or harass, as is the case with other conduct already prohibited under the existing hate crime statutes. The bill would also clarify that the display of a noose for legitimate reasons (i.e., in a Halloween display or theatrical production) with no intent to harass or intimidate is not a criminal act. Specificity and clarity are essential to good criminal law, and this makes such a clarification.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Frank Sykes, Legislative Analyst, African-American Affairs Commission-Supports the bill. The purpose of the bill is to address a recent resurgence in hate crimes across the state and the nation. The most recent report released by the FBI shows that nationally there were a total of 9,652 victims identified in hate crimes and more than half, 52 percent were targeted because of race. 1 Data from the FBI on hate crimes in Connecticut mirrors this report and show that race is still the number one motivating factor in such crimes.

After the Jena Six incident in Louisiana, noose hanging became a fashion statement. Connecticut unfortunately had its share with at least 5 reported noose-hanging incidents in the span of 6 months last year. Many more incidents may have occurred but were not reported for fear of retaliation. Some view this behavior as merely a prank but for many in the African-American community, noose-hanging is nothing less than an expression of hate and a symbol of oppression.

There needs to be increased anti-bias education in schools to prevent these crimes from happening in the first place. It begins with the understanding of the history of different races and ethnicity.

Chiefs Anthony Salvatore & James Strillacci, Connecticut Police Chiefs Association- Supports the bill. The bill will put the placing of a noose on par with cross-burning as a prohibited act of intimidation and hate. This bill may not make a case easier to solve because investigations hinge on the presence or absence of evidence. But it should make it easier to prosecute once the perpetrator is identified because it identifies the act as a hate crime and not a mere breach of peace or criminal mischief. Most importantly, this bill will serve as a clear statement that our state rejects the use of symbols intended to frighten any segment of our community.

David Waren, Connecticut Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League-Supports the bill. Bias incidents are designed to intimidate the victim and members of the victim's community, leaving them feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected by the law. Failure to address this unique type of crime could cause an isolated incident to explode into widespread community tension.

The ADL is especially concerned by copycat incidents involving the use of hangman's noose that continue to be reported around the country. Similar incidents involving nooses have recently been reported at schools all over the country including in Connecticut. Failure to address this unique type of crime can cause an isolated incident to explode into widespread community tension.

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia have enacted hate crime penalty-enhancement laws, many based on an ADL model statute drafted in 1981. In Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (1993), the U. S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the Wisconsin penalty-enhancement statute, effectively removing any doubt that state legislatures may properly increase the penalties for criminal activity in which the victim is intentionally targeted because of his/her race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or ethnicity.

Hate violence remains far too prevalent in America. The annual FBI report revealed that in 2006, 7,722 hate crimes were reported by more than 12,000 law enforcement agencies across the country. Last year the State of Connecticut reported a total of 131 hate crimes.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None submitted.

Reported by: Laurie Julian

Date: April 3, 2008

1 FBI 2006 Hate Crime Statistics