Senate and House committees approved legislation that would make prejudice-driven attacks against the homeless a hate crime, meaning longer jail sentences for offenders. The issue will get more consideration during the legislative session, which starts March 2.
Florida has led the nation for four consecutive years in violent attacks against the homeless with 30 such incidents in 2008.
The Florida bill will likely run into opposition on several fronts.
Some oppose hate crimes laws in general, arguing that all victims should be treated equally. Given the state’s budget crunch, legislators are hesitant to increase criminal penalties – which add strain on overstuffed prisons. And even proponents of hate-crimes laws have objections, saying adding the homeless as a category would dilute the overall impact.
Read the South Florida Sun-Sentinel report here.