WASHINGTON—The Department of Justice announced last week that the Office of Justice Programs will award more than $21 million to investigate and prosecute hate crimes and assist hate crime victims.
Funding will help state, local and tribal agencies and community organizations address an alarming rise in violent and property crimes committed on the basis of race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.
“Hate crimes instill fear across entire communities. They have profoundly negative and unacceptable effects on our society,” said associate attorney general Vanita Gupta. “The department is committed to using all tools at our disposal to combat unlawful acts of hate. These awards will provide state, local and tribal agencies additional support and critical resources to address hate crimes and their far-reaching effects.”
This announcement comes on the 12th anniversary of the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2009. Shepard, a gay 21-year-old Wyoming man, and Byrd, a 49-year-old African-American man from Jasper, Texas, were slain in separate incidents in 1998. Shepard was beaten, tortured and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming. His killers were convicted of murder and are serving two life sentences. Byrd was tied to the back of a pickup truck by white supremacists and dragged to his death. Two of the murderers were executed for the brutal crime. The Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act enables the Justice Department to prosecute crimes motivated by race, color, religion and national origin without having to show that the victim was engaged in a federally protected activity. The Act also empowers the department to prosecute hate crimes committed because of a person’s sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.
OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance is administering a new program named in honor of Shepard and Byrd. The Act makes grant funds available to improve the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. Through the Shepard-Byrd solicitation and the related Collaborative Responses to Hate Crimes program that seeks to address precipitous increases in hate crimes, OJP’s BJA will award $8.4 million in site-based funding and training and technical assistance.
“Acts of violence and destruction motivated by hate and bias cause lasting harm to victims, terrorize entire communities and divide our nation, leaving deep scars and stalling the march toward equal justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon of OJP. “We must work together to bridge the gaps of empathy, root out intolerance in all its forms and send a clear message that the future belongs to every American, no matter what they look like, how they worship and whom they love.”
BJA will also make $1.5 million in site-based awards under the Emmett Till Unsolved Civil Rights Crimes Reauthorization Act of 2016 to help solve cold case civil rights murders that occurred before Dec. 31, 1979. Till, an African-American teenager, was visiting his family in Money, Mississippi, during the summer of 1955 when he was abducted, beaten and killed. Two local men were prosecuted for the crime but were acquitted by an all-white jury, though they later confessed to the killing. Till’s case helped galvanize the nascent civil rights movement. BJA will award an additional $1.8 million to offer training and technical assistance to other communities seeking to resolve these cases, including making microgrants to the field.
OJP’s Office for Victims of Crime has awarded $2 million to respond to the needs of individuals and communities victimized by hate crime. OVC’s Services to Support Victims of Hate Crime and Strengthen Communities program funds innovative, field-generated projects that promote awareness, healing, reconciliation, service access and resource development. OVC is also providing technical assistance to state, local and tribal service providers to help identify and serve hate crime victims.
OJP’s National Institute of Justice has awarded almost $7.5 million to support research designed to develop a better understanding of the phenomenon known as domestic radicalization and to advance evidence-based strategies for preventing and intervening in acts of domestic terrorism. NIJ recently concluded projects to construct a database of individuals arrested or charged with hate crimes and to develop detailed, nationally representative data on hate crime incidents known to police.
For more information about efforts across the Department of Justice to address hate crime, visit https://www.justice.gov/hatecrimes. (PR)