Mississippi Today won the 2021 Collier Prize for State Government Accountability, one of the largest journalism prizes in the nation.
The investigation, reported for Mississippi Today in partnership with the 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.
“I’m grateful to know that readers were as stirred as I was by the experiences of Annita, Dixie, Gaylia and so many others in Mississippi’s disastrous prison system,” Anna Wolfe, Mississippi Today’s investigative reporter, said. “Thank you to the dozens of people who trusted us to tell their stories. None of this, none of the impact we hope to have through our reporting, is possible without their courage and vulnerability.”
The project was a five-part series reported over several months, reported by Joseph Neff and Alysia Santo of The Marshall Project, and Michelle Liu and Anna Wolfe of Mississippi Today. 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 (now at editor-in-chief at Reckon) edited the project. Liu, who was a reporter for Mississippi Today between 2018 and 2020, now works for The Associated Press.
“This reporting — among the most impactful government accountability journalism in Mississippi’s history — should be held up as a shining example of the power of newsroom collaboration,” said Adam Ganucheau, Mississippi Today’s editor-in-chief. “Pairing Mississippi Today’s local, boots-on-the-ground reporting with the resources and renowned talent of the journalists at The Marshall Project allowed us to expose profound wrongs and change many lives for the better. We’re so proud to have been part of this project.”
This is the fifth national award the investigation has won. In April 2021, the investigation won the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting. 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.