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Isabelle Taft named as Livingston Award finalist

Former Mississippi Today reporter Isabelle Taft has been named as a 2024 Livingston Award finalist in the local reporting division for her investigation into Mississippi’s practice of jailing people who have not been charged with a crime and are in need of mental health treatment.

The award recognizes the best reporting by young journalists.

Isabelle Taft is a reporter and member of the Community Health Team at Mississippi Today, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
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Isabelle Taft is a reporter and member of the Community Health Team at Mississippi Today, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.

Committed to Jail,” a 2023 Mississippi Today and ProPublica investigation, revealed that Mississippi counties jail hundreds of people without criminal charges every year, for days or weeks at a time, solely because they may need mental health treatment — a practice that has resulted in 14 deaths since 2006 and is unique in scope in the United States. Taft was named as a finalist along with ProPublica counterparts Agnel Philip and Mollie Simon.

Mississippi Today found that in just 19 of the state’s 82 counties, people were jailed without charges more than 2,000 times over four years. Taft spoke with 14 Mississippians about their experiences in jail and learned that people detained for being sick are generally treated the same as people accused of crimes. She obtained Mississippi Bureau of Investigation reports on jail deaths and pored over lawsuits and news clips to identify 15 people who died after being jailed during this process since 2006, (including the most recent death in January, after the original series was published). And she surveyed behavioral health officials and disability rights advocates in all 50 states to show that Mississippi stands alone.

Taft was selected from thousands of applicants as a 2024-2025 fellow at The New York Times beginning this summer. She will cover national news.

The winner will be announced in June.

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