The bill seeks to include crimes against the homeless within the definition of “hate crimes” for the purposes of reporting and monitoring by the state police. The bill emphasizes the importance police training but does not include enhanced penalties for offenders.
The RI Homeless Advocacy Project and other advocates assert that this bill will help to reverse the trend toward increasing violence against the homeless. From 1999 through 2008, there have been 880 reported acts of violence against the homeless, resulting in 244 deaths of homeless people as well as 636 victims of non-lethal violence. Here in Rhode Island, homeless individuals have been threatened, beaten, stabbed, and raped.
Representative Segal, a congressional candidate, called the bill’s decisive passage “A crucial step toward the government fulfilling its duty to protect and empower one of the state’s most vulnerable populations.”
This bill was sponsored by Representative David Segal and co-sponsored by Representatives Frank Ferri, Anastasia Williams, Scott Slater, and Grace Diaz. During yesterday’s floor debate, Representatives Peter Martin, Nicholas Mattiello, Lisa Baldelli-Hunt and Judiciary Committee Chair David Caprio joined the bill’s sponsors in voicing their support.
The companion bill, S-2323, has been heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Advocates are thrilled by the bill’s enthusiastic reception in the House and urge the Senate to take similar action.