Mississippi Today reporters Michelle Liu and Anna Wolfe reporting for this series. Credit: Eric Shelton, Mississippi Today/Report for America

Mississippi Today reporters Anna Wolfe and Michelle Liu and a team of collaborators won the 2021 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, considered the top investigative journalism award in the nation.

Their investigation, reported for Mississippi Today and The Marshall Project, exposed Mississippi’s practice of forcing individuals convicted of low-level felony offenses to work off their fines and other court debts at low-wage jobs during the day while they are confined in locked facilities at night until the debts are paid.

THE REPORTING: Want out of Jail? First You Have To Take a Fast-Food Job

The reporting beat out several other Goldsmith Prize finalists including Politico, Reuters, Tampa Bay Times, Indianapolis Star and AL.com.

The investigation was a collaboration between The Marshall Project and Mississippi Today, and was also published by the USA Today Network, the Clarion-Ledger, the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting, and Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Data analysis was provided by The Marshall Project’s Andrew R. Calderon. Leslie Eaton of The Marshall Project and R.L. Nave of Mississippi Today edited the project. Liu, who was a reporter for Mississippi Today between 2018 and 2020, now works for The Associated Press.

This is the fourth national award the investigation has won. In March 2020, the project won the John Jay College/Harry Frank Guggenheim awards for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting. In February 2020, the reporting won the Sidney Award. In September 2020, it won the Online News Association’s Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award.


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