This review provides an overview of the emergence, content, and institutionalization of hate crime law as a unique form of criminal and civil rights law originating in the United States and increasingly finding a home in other countries. From the introduction and politicization of the term hate crime in the late 1970s to the increased enforcement of hate crime law at the beginning of the twenty-first century, social movements have constructed the problem of hate-motivated violence; politicians at the federal and state levels have passed legislation defining the parameters of hate crime; appellate court judges have decided the constitutionality of hate crime law; and law enforcement officials have classified, reported, investigated, and prosecuted incidents as hate crime. At the same time, media attention to hate crime has increased, defining the concept for the masses while leading to and reflecting growing acceptance of the idea that criminal conduct is different when it involves an act motivated by (some types of) bigotry, hatred, or bias and manifested as discrimination against (some types of) minorities. An examination of these changes suggests that lawmaking transcends the moment at which a statute is adopted; it is best understood as a larger process of policy domain formation that is enabled and constrained by a policy community intimately connected to extralegal political processes and the workings of loosely coupled bureaucratic structures comprising the criminal justice system.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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