A reader writes:

I believe the left has abandoned its principles here in same way that the right abandoned it's principles on torture.  Outside of the issue of hate crimes, you will find progressive thinkers opposed to slapping on more jail time as a solution to everything.  This is why, they say, you will find overcrowded prisons costing the state in terms of upkeep and lost economic potential.  Moreover, they say, long prison sentences automatically imposed (by such laws as the three strikes rule) take justice out of context and only contribute to the problem.

Why, then, do these same people suddenly want to throw away the key for those who inflict pain on others from prejudice? Is it because they think the prison system works for bigots where it fails everyone else? This is a profound contradiction that at least requires explanation.

Matthew Shepard was murdered. If the penalty for murder is not enough, then the real problem is how we treat murder cases.  All of them.

I agree, but then I've never been on the gay left and have always opposed these laws. There is a real debate about the 20/20 story and, for the sake of balance, you can read the critiques of it here and here. I should be clear: I do not for a minute believe that the bigotry behind the Matthew Shepard murder was a hoax. I think it was murkier and more complicated - i.e. more human - than some want it to be. Of course, if you believe that his murderers deserved the maximum sentence because they brutally murdered someone, and not because they were meth-fueled bigots, it doesn't matter. I want the same laws against the same acts enforced equally on everyone. If police don't enforce the law equally, get on their case. But leave the laws alone.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.