Steve Woods, an inmate at Pearl River County Jail, performs maintenance on a public baseball field in #Picayune, Mississippi as part of his labor assignment. Woods also works one day each week at a local animal shelter. Photo by @misterwidmer.
In a budget-cutting move, the Mississippi Department of Corrections announced last spring that it would shut down a program that paid counties to take in state inmates who worked free for local governments in return for shortened sentences. Although #prison #inmate work programs were once regarded as sources of cheap — or free — labor for local governments, as well as employment for trusted inmates, officials in some states including Mississippi have concluded that they are too expensive to maintain. The effect is that while state prison systems can save money — $3.2 million a year in the case of Mississippi, according to state officials — many local governments are straining to find ways to replace the labor.
I’m William Widmer, an independent photographer based in New Orleans. I recently photographed a feature on the “Free State of Jones” that appears in the current issue of the magazine (or online at http://www.smithsonianmag.com). This is my final day taking over the @smithsonianmagazine feed, sharing outtakes from the story and other work from the grand state of #Mississippi, where I end up spending a good deal of time. Please join me over at @misterwidmer for more!