2021 Winner, Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting

Mississippi’s Dangerous and Dysfunctional Penal System

Mississippi has America’s most dangerous and antiquated penal system – The Marshall Project and Mississippi Today uncovered why. Severe understaffing has made prisons so dangerous that even guards aren’t safe. The state is paying millions of dollars to private prisons for workers who don’t show up. And Mississippi is the only state still running debtors prisons, where people with mostly low-level convictions are sentenced to prison-like facilities to work off fines, court fees, and restitution. Residents in these “restitution centers” often stay longer than necessary to pay off their debts. Lawmakers have called for defunding the centers and turning them into halfway houses, and the Mississippi State Auditor issued a scathing report, saying “the state must fix this, and now.” He also launched an investigation into the tax dollars paid for ghost workers. 

Read more about the story behind the investigation in this piece by The Journalist’s Resource.

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