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Improving Strategies for Investigating & Prosecuting Hate Crimes: A National Yet Local Approach

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $994,787)

Problem: Prosecutorial offices often lack the knowledge, cultural, material and structural capacity to flag, investigate and prosecute most hate crimes. Without effective hate crime investigation and prosecutions, any efforts toward improving hate crime reporting and prevention appear quixotic. A lack of prosecution can send a powerful message to affected communities that reporting crimes would be a waste of time; it may also embolden hate-motivated offenders.

Partnerships: Florida International University, in partnership with the Institute for State and Local Governance (CUNY), proposes to fill the existing gap in research and policy development. We formed partnerships with five mid-to-large size prosecutorial offices from Broward County, Cook County, Multnomah County, Orleans Parish and Philadelphia. These agencies will provide access to administrative data, prosecutorial case files, and practitioners. Additionally, with support from Fair & Just Prosecution (FJP), Association of Prosecuting Attorneys (APA), and Prosecutorial Performance Indicators (PPIs), we will engage with elected or appointed prosecutors across the country to conduct a broad scan of existing problems and gauge future directions of hate crime legislation and prosecution.

Goal & Objectives: The goal of this project is to develop effective hate crime investigation and prosecution strategies. To achieve this goal, we will (a) assess the indicators of bias motivation, and the process for flagging and prosecuting hate crimes; (b) understand key attributes of cases filed and prosecuted as hate crimes, compared to those with a bias indicator but not charged as such; (c) explore the role of external and internal factors enabling or hindering hate crime detection, investigation, and prosecution; and (d) identify system challenges and opportunities for reform.

Methods: We have developed an ambitious five-pronged data collection plan. To gain a national perspective of the scope and nature of this problem, we will examine state laws, policies and procedures across U.S. jurisdictions, and the attitudes and experiences of 80-100 elected/appointed prosecutors nationally. To assess the capacity to handle hate crimes at the jurisdictional and office levels, we will analyze administrative data, build an unprecedented dataset through prosecutorial case file reviews, and interview line prosecutors, investigators, victim service providers and community liaisons from five partner jurisdictions. Based on the holistic legal and empirical analyses of these rich and fresh data, we will develop recommendations for building greater investigative and prosecutorial capacity for detecting, handling and preventing hate crimes, and assisting crime victims.

Impact: The findings will help prosecutors develop more effective policies and practices for flagging, investigating and prosecuting hate crimes, and for providing assistance to crime victims. It will also help improve capacity within prosecutorial offices for systematically collecting hate crime data. With better data, we can increase the accountability and transparency of prosecutorial offices, and enable elected leaders to use these data to meaningfully engage with communities adversely affected by victimization, underreporting, or lack of prosecution. Such data efforts will also lead to filling a significant gap in the social science literature on the investigation and prosecution of bias-motivated offenses.

Products: The project will yield: (1) the summary overview, (2) the policy brief, (3) podcast, (4) robust social media campaign, (5) conference presentations, and (6) multiple top-tier journal publications. We will also work with local and national reporters, professional associations, and advocacy groups to share our results and policy recommendations more broadly.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law," and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR  200.210(a)(14). CA/NCF

Date Created: September 27, 2022