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Report: Utah Could Improve Its Hate-Crime Laws

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Friday, July 30, 2021   

SALT LAKE CITY - With rising numbers of people targeted in hate crimes and related violence, a new report analyzes the hate-crime laws in each state.

The Movement Advancement Project and 16 partner organizations detail the patchwork of state laws in ten areas, and make suggestions for how states could move forward to reduce hate crimes.

Naomi Goldberg, deputy director of the group behind the report, said Utah updated its hate crime statute in 2019 to be more inclusive after violence against an immigrant man. But she said the state lacks support services for victims.

"We know that hate violence impacts those individuals," said Goldberg, "who may often need mental health care, potentially physical health care, and other pieces to help recover, but also communities that experience hate violence need those kind of supports."

The FBI consider a hate crime as an act of violence against people based on race, religion,
disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity.

Goldberg said law enforcement agencies in Utah collect data on hate crimes, but only on a voluntary basis. She notes data collection is vital to get a full picture of what's happening in a state.

Goldberg said adequate law enforcement training also is crucial, along with solutions that focus beyond prison walls. She said several states have created sentencing options that don't strictly involve incarceration, and are instead based on restorative justice practices.

"That could include education, it could include actually engaging with victims and helping to build understanding," said Goldberg. "Which, when we think about hate violence, I think it's important that this isn't just a crime that happens. This is hate that is in our community, and intolerance that's in our country. So, how do we actually get to that root cause?"

Ultimately, Goldberg said eliminating hate violence will require society-level changes.

"We can't think about hate crime laws as a single solution," said Goldberg. "We really need to be thinking more broadly."

Partners for this report include the Anti-Defamation League, Matthew Shepard Foundation, National Black Justice Coalition and National Disability Rights Network.




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