Purvis Young (1943 - 2010)

Behind Bars, Circa 1999
Paint on metal baking tray
26 x 19 in (66.04 x 48.26 cm)
There are over 2.2 million people in the United States prison system. The results are overcrowding in federal, state, and private run prisons. Sentencing policies, implicit racial bias, and socioeconomic inequity contribute to racial disparities at every level of the criminal justice system. Today, people of color make up about 37% of the U.S. population but over 67% of the prison population. All over the US, federal and state prison systems are broken. Nonprofits like the Innocence Projects and others work to exonerate the innocent through advanced technologies while advocating for reform in the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. Painted on a metal food tray, “Behind Bars” gives us a small glimpse of the innocently incarcerated. The yellow and white figures, the good people, are behind the black metal bars and reach out for help. These are the mass injustices portrayed by the artist. However, the overseers see everything. They keep a watchful eye on those behind the bars, protecting us from the truth.
Behind Bars by Purvis Young (1943 - 2010)

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