The Faces Of America’s Broken Justice System

A woman, whose son is condemned to decades behind bars, paints the faces of some victims of America’s broken criminal justice system.

Sheila Phipps, a mother, whose son is serving a 30-year prison sentence for a nightclub shooting incident in 2000, is using her artistry in the form of paintings to tell the story of a Louisiana’s broken criminal justice system.

Phipps is a visual artist, who’s been painting since the 1980s.

Her mission to highlight the perils of the broken criminal justice system in Louisiana, the ‘world’s center for incarceration,’ began after her son, McKinley “Mac” Phipps, a former No Limit hip-hop artist, was convicted and incarcerated for a crime, which, according to her, “he didn’t commit”.

“My son was wrongfully convicted in 2001 and is now serving time for a crime he didn’t commit,” Sheila Phipps said.

According to Phipps, the unbearable thoughts of her son spending such a large chunk of his life in prison inspired her to use her talent in order to capture the element missing from her life – her son.

“I was frustrated, and it helped me deal with the stress of everything,” Phipps told The Huffington Post.

What started initially as a therapeutic session intended to escape the harsh realities of the visual artist’s quandary, became the starting point for capturing the stories from many other Louisiana inmates being in similar situations.

“I knew my son was not the only one who was a victim of the criminal justice system,” Phipps said. “So I started to research other cases where individuals were convicted with questionable evidence or received excessive sentences.”

Phipps paintings, which she assembles in a series titled “Injustice Xhibition,” feature seven incarcerated men: McKinley “Mac” Phipps Jr., Warren Scott III, Jerome “Skee” Smith, Earl Truvia, Stanley Stirgus, Rogers LaCaze Sr., and Jamil Joyner.

“I needed to do something to shed some light on the criminal justice system,” she said. “The portraits I paint reflect the realities and problems of mass incarceration.”

The 58-year-old artist’s work has been highly praised and achieved widespread recognition for what critics say is, “a sensitivity and a mother-like compassion in her work that she brings to every subject”.

Phipps will be displaying her assemble of incredible artwork in a tour around 20 universities starting from April.

The fact that the existence of loopholes and biases in the criminal justice system is no secret to our lawmakers and legal experts makes us wish we had millions of artists, who like Phipps, are willing to use their creativity in bringing about change.

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