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Dozens Jailed Without Lawyers in One Mississippi County

In Mississippi, access to legal representation depends on your county.

This is The Marshall Project - Jackson’s newsletter, a monthly digest of criminal justice news from around Mississippi gathered by our staff of local journalists. Want this delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to future newsletters.

Today we’ll talk about two big criminal justice topics where lawmakers considered reform but then took no action. We’ll also show why thousands in the state can’t vote because of an old Jim Crow law.

What else should we be covering here? We want to hear from you! Please reach out to us with suggestions for this newsletter and story tips.

—Caleb Bedillion and Daja E. Henry, staff writers, The Marshall Project - Jackson

Mississippi lags further behind U.S. for public defense reform

Mississippi has one of the worst public defense systems in the nation. Local counties and courts manage a sprawling patchwork of different systems, many with very different rules. Caleb Bedillion exposed how one defendant was denied a lawyer in one county, but was granted a public defender automatically in another.

A reform bill in the state Legislature was intended to make this system more consistent and effective, but it died without becoming law.

Read Caleb’s story today on why the bill fell apart and why Mississippi is becoming increasingly isolated on the national stage when it comes to protecting the Sixth Amendment right to legal representation.

The Legislature again fails to overturn the lifetime voting ban for certain felonies

Mississippi is one of just 13 states that bars some people who have been convicted of felonies from voting for life. The state House wanted to overhaul these laws and give some people their voting rights back, but the state Senate wouldn’t consider the idea. We explored the history of this Jim Crow law born from the post-Reconstruction era. Learn who can and can’t vote in Mississippi, from Caleb, and read about the ugly history of the law, from Daja E. Henry.

An illustration of a Black man standing on one side of a scale, reaching up toward a ballot box on the other end of the scale.
Meet Hinds County judges and DA

Who holds the power in Hinds County’s justice system? Daja E. Henry profiled the district attorney and the four felony court judges who decide the fate of thousands of people who are arrested and prosecuted in the state’s most populous county.

Check out our FAQ on what happens if someone is arrested in Hinds County for more information on how the system works.

Send us your story tips!

A lot of things happen in the criminal justice system that are questionable and harmful. If you’ve experienced or witnessed something you think we should look into further, contact us through this form or All tips are confidential.