Arkansas is one of the last three states without a Hate Crimes Law. We also have one of the highest numbers of hate crime groups per capita in the nation. Today, a bipartisan group of Arkansas General Assembly members, along with Governor Asa Hutchinson, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Arkansas business leaders, and members of various faith communities, presented a draft of proposed hate crime legislation, to be filed during the 2021 legislative session.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families supports this proposed legislation, which would enhance prison sentences for offenses defined as hate crimes. Under the draft bill, those are offenses in which the defendant purposely selected the victim(s) based on race, ancestry, color, current or former service in the U.S. Armed Forces, disability, ethnicity, gender identity, homelessness, national origin, religion, or sexual orientation.
This is a strong step toward identifying and championing anti-racist policies and toward building a more equitable Arkansas.
Children who are exposed to the trauma of hatred are prone to lead lives filled with disorder, conflict, turmoil and an array of injustices. If we expect all our children to grow into healthy and productive adults, we must protect them from people who wish to harm them simply because of who they are.
The bill would also require an annual report on hate crimes in Arkansas. At AACF, we know how important is to collect quality data to make informed policy decisions, so we applaud this effort as well. We look forward to working with state lawmakers to support this proposed legislation.
Learn more about hate crimes by visiting the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website.