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In the state of Mississippi, judges lock up people while they work to earn money to pay off court-ordered debts. The Marshall Project and Mississippi Today took a dive into this modern-day debtor's prison program and found a system in which just a quarter of the money that inmates make — sometimes working dangerous jobs — goes to pay their victims.
Using investigative reporting and data journalism, "Think Debtor's Prisons Are a Thing of the Past? Not in Mississippi," tells the story of the last remaining restitution centers in the country.
Included in this repo are documents from the Mississippi Department of Corrections that show how the population of the restitution system has changed between December 2014 and August 2019.
If you'd like to use the data, please read on to understand its provenance.
Data Sources and Methods
Mississippi Today and The Marshall Project compiled these documents using Mississippi's Public Records Act.
We requested population reports from the Mississippi Department of Corrections, which tell us the inmate population in each restitution center at the beginning of the month. The reports also include information like the average number of inmates employed in a given month and how many absconded.
The report for each month is generated using the previous month's data, so the February 2018 report is based on the January 2018 data, and so on.
We transcribed the population totals to analyze how the overall population has changed from the end of 2014 to the middle of 2019. You can find those in this spreadsheet.
It takes a village to raise a data story. This one benefitted from the scrutiny, creativity and talents of:
- Andrew R. Calderon, Data Reporter, at The Marshall Project
- Weihua Li, Data Reporting Fellow, at The Marshall Project.
- Leslie Eaton, Senior Editor, at The Marshall Project
- Tom Meagher, Managing Editor for Digital and Data, at The Marshall Project
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