Nathalie Baptiste

Nathalie Baptiste is a writing fellow at The American Prospect

Recent Articles

Lawmakers Push For Sentencing Reform Ahead of Elections

A bipartisan reform measure could shrink the federal prison population by 60,000—if it can pass the Senate before November. 

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
When Senator Chuck Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, introduced a major sentencing reform bill last October, his move signaled that Congress intended to take decisive action on revamping the country’s draconian sentencing laws. With the November elections on the horizon and Americans souring on their status as the country with the world’s largest prison population, federal lawmakers may pick up the pace on crafting a reform package. The Iowa Republican’s bill, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 , aims to reduce mandatory minimum sentences for certain drug offenses and promote re-entry services for offenders who are nearing the end of their sentences. The bill would also apply provisions of the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act retroactively: Crack cocaine offenders sentenced after August 3, 2010, would be eligible for shorter sentences. During the so-called war on drugs in the 1980s, Congress established mandatory minimum sentences for drug-...

Maryland Senate Showdown Pits Left Against Lefter

In the state's Senate primary, an establishment progressive faces a more progressive outsider. Sound familiar?

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP Images
This article appears in the Spring 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine . Subscribe here . The atmosphere in the room feels more like an old-school black church than it does a campaign event. The crowd that has assembled in Baltimore’s Charles North neighborhood—mostly black women greeting each other like long-lost friends and making small talk—is awaiting the arrival of Democratic Representative Donna Edwards of Maryland’s Fourth District, which is centered in the Washington, D.C., suburbs of the predominantly African American Prince George’s County. Edwards is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski, who, after serving 30 years, announced her retirement last March. Since Maryland is a reliably blue state (the election of Republican Larry Hogan for governor notwithstanding), the winner of the April 26 Democratic primary will likely go on to win in November. Edwards burst onto the Maryland political scene in 2008 after...

Right to Counsel for Louisiana’s Indigent Defendants Remains at Risk

Massive cuts to the state's public-defender budget will only increase the number of low-level defendants awaiting legal representation in overcrowded jails.

(Photo: Shutterstock)
Louisiana’s public-defender crisis may well cement the Bayou State’s position as the country’s prison capital. The Louisiana Public Defender Board has seen its budget slashed as state lawmakers try to stanch the red ink flowing out of Baton Rouge. This latest round of cutbacks promises to further compromise the agency’s ability to provide poor criminal defendants with legal counsel. The crisis has forced Louisiana public-defender offices across the state to lay off attorneys and cut the salaries of the employees who stay on. In fiscal year 2017, state public-defender offices will only receive $12.8 million, down from $33 million the previous year, a 61 percent cut. Burdened with unmanageable caseloads, the remaining public defenders are unable to consult with with every defendant who needs representation. In some Louisiana parishes (subdivisions comparable to counties), public defenders struggle with caseloads approaching 1,000 felonies annually. The National...

Conservative Dark Money Targets Senators in Supreme Court Fight

Despite Merrick Garland's moderate credentials and former bipartisan support, conservatives have gone on the offensive to block his nomination. 

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
After the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, many Republicans immediately took to social media, broadcast television, and cable, to announce that they would not hold confirmation hearings for President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the vacant seat—long before they knew who that person would be. Last week, Obama announced that Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, as his choice. Republicans are maintaining their no-hearings stance with the support of political action committees and other conservative groups that are willing to spend money to keep the seat empty until after the country elects a new president. The Washington Post recently reported that several conservative organizations were aggressively opposing the nomination of Garland. One Nation, a Washington, D.C.-based, right-leaning PAC spent $140,000 on an advertisement for broadcast and cable television in Iowa that features...

'Cuddling Up to Criminals': Criminal-Justice Reform at CPAC

As reform gains momentum on the right, conservatives at CPAC clash over how far it should go. 

(Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/AP Images)
On Thursday, conservatives of all stripes descended on the Gaylord National Convention Center at the National Harbor in Maryland, just a few miles south of Washington, D.C. In recent years, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference has featured presentations on topics ranging from the future of the Republican Party to voter engagement to criminal-justice reform, which lately has gained support from the right side of the aisle. This year’s panel on criminal-justice reform featured a debate pitting reformers Pat Nolan of the American Conservative Union and Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia, against lock-'em-up apostle David Clarke, the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, who’d famously compared Black Lives Matter protesters to ISIS terrorists. “Folks,” Clarke began, “you’re not being told the truth when it comes to this criminal-justice reform and sentencing reform.” Clarke went on to tout the policies from...