STATEWIDE — Right now, Indiana has a very basic hate crimes law that many state lawmakers are adamant needs to be strengthened in the next legislative session.
The renewed effort comes after the latest spree of shootings across the United States. One in Buffalo, New York where a self-described white supremacist man shot and killed ten people at a grocery store predominantly shopped at by Black people. Also, a Chinese man targeted a church in California over his hatred of people from Taiwan.
State Rep. Greg Porter (D-Indianapolis) says these events show that Indiana needs to up its game when it comes to hate crimes legislation.
“Yes, we do/don’t have hate crime legislation. We do but we don’t,” he told WISH-TV. “Because it doesn’t say specifically what it needs to say with regard to giving prosecutors the tools they need in their tool chest. We check the box in general, but I didn’t vote for it because it doesn’t go far enough in helping prosecutors.”
State law, at the moment, simply acknowledges that someone could use bias towards or against certain groups of people as motivation for committing a crime, but it has no specific guidelines on how to handle these cases. The President of Indiana’s State Conference of the NAACP says the law breeds inconsistency.
“Jasper County might say for this same particular type of crime, we’re going to give the defendant two more years,” said Barbara Bolling-Williams. “Maybe, down in Bartholomew County, they’re going to give them six months. Somebody might say ‘we’re not going to do any type of enhancement. The law is crazy.”
Porter said he will likely do something to fine-tune Indiana’s hate crimes legislation in the next Legislative Session, whether it’s through a new bill altogether or an amendment to build on current law already in place.