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ROME – An unincorporated community in Sunflower County, Rome is located less than five miles from Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman Farm. The small, primarily African American community has a population of less than 200 people. A large number of the residents here either work at the prison or have retired from the institution.

The prison recently made national news due to inmate living conditions and recent violence that’s resulted in several inmate deaths and a Department of Justice investigation. Read our full coverage of Mississippi’s prison system, including Parchman.

Here are images from Rome, about 150 miles north of Jackson, and some of the people who live in the shadow of one of the nation’s most notorious prisons. — Eric J. Shelton

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Read the complete photo essay here.


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Eric J. Shelton was a 2018 corps member in Report for America, and joined the team as our first photojournalist. A native of Columbia, Miss., Eric earned his bachelor’s in photojournalism from the University of Southern Mississippi. He was a multimedia journalist for Abilene Reporter-News, chief photographer for the Hattiesburg American and photo editor for the Killeen Daily Herald before joining our team June 2018. He rejoined Mississippi Today as our health photojournalist in January 2022.