On June 22, 2021, Interfaith Alliance joined 15 other civil rights and religious freedom organizations in urging the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies to increase funding for programs and organizations that address the roots of hate-based violence.
Any crime committed by one human being against another is a tragedy. But hate crimes are uniquely damaging, impacting those targeted, their loved ones, and the larger group they represent. Long after an incident occurs, people in targeted groups continue to experience the fear and instability these acts cause.
To better protect our communities now and in the future, the government must invest in community-based efforts to heal from and prevent hate-based violence. At a time when hate groups are becoming more vocal, visible, and violent, government agencies must work with grassroots organizations to create environments in which all of us are equally safe and empowered to thrive.
Increase Funding for Community-Based Anti-Hate Work
Community organizations play an essential role in documenting, countering, and mitigating hate-based violence. Many of those targeted by attacks have suffered from disproportionate surveillance and criminalization by law enforcement and, as a result, may fear the potential consequences of reaching out. As a result, when hate incidents occur, those affected often turn first to familiar and trusted community organizations for support.
To ensure each person has access to the services they need when a hate incident occurs, we call on the subcommittee to invest in trusted community organizations to complement law enforcement efforts to prevent and respond to hate crime.
Fund Improvements in Hate Crime Statistics
On May 20, 2021, President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act into law to specifically address the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. This bill included the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, a bill which promotes accurate hate crime data reporting, giving stakeholders the information they need to keep communities safe.
The data improvement programs authorized by the NO HATE Act will help paint an accurate and comprehensive picture of hate crimes in this country. But to properly implement these programs, the subcommittee must ensure that these programs have the appropriate funding. In doing so, we can ensure that law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders can more effectively meet the needs of communities affected by hate-based violence.
Increase Support for Peacebuilding and Restorative Justice
Hate incidents happen when prejudice escalates to violence. To create communities that are free of fear and division, the subcommittee must invest in programs that challenge the prejudices that lead to attacks.
We ask the subcommittee to empower and provide resources to the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service (CRS). CRS is charged with pursuing justice and reconciliation throughout all of the States and territories by engaging crime victims, government agencies, civil rights groups, and community leaders in healing and conflict resolution.
Supporting alternative means of addressing hate crimes that challenge offenders’ beliefs holds promise as a means of reducing future violence. That is why we call upon the subcommittee to allocate resources for further study on restorative justice alternatives to criminal punishment for a hate crime. These types of programs provide opportunities to heal and regain confidence in their own security.
In the effort to stop hate-based violence, we call on our representatives to support measures which focus on the root causes of prejudice and bias. By investing in community-based programs, we can better meet the needs of those affected and create a safer, more equitable future for all.