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Jails are the crime - women behind bars


Jails are the crime - women behind bars

Object information

Physical description

Screenprinted banner featuring an image of a woman grasping prison bars repeated five times at intervals. Image in black with background fabric used as contrast. The fourth image contains a red detail below the right eye with an uneven opening. Text at top of banner reads: "THE JAILS ARE THE CRIME .../ " in white lettering. Text at bottom of banner reads: "WOMEN BEHIND BARS" in pink lettering. An embroidered symbol is attached at the bottom right hand side of the banner which includes the female symbol containing three arms. The banner is backed with red fabric. There are four air vent slits at intervals through the centre of the banner and two small buttonholes on the top edge for pole support.

Statement of significance

The Judy Mackinolty Collection comprises of two large fabric banners. The hand-painted 'Justice for Violet and Bruce Roberts' banner was produced by artist Toni Robertson while she was artist in Residence for the Earthworks Poster Collective in Sydney. Created in 1980, the banner depicts expressive portraits of Violet and Bruce Roberts. The second banner, 'Jails are the crime ...Women Behind Bars' was screen printed by artist Chips Mackinolty and the embroidery added by Marie McMahon for the Women Behind Bars Organisation in 1980. It features a screen printed image of a woman grasping the bars that imprison her.

In December 1975 Violet Roberts and her son Bruce Roberts were arrested and later convicted of murdering, Violet's husband, Eric Roberts. Violet and her six children had endured years of violence and abuse at the hands of Eric Roberts. However, the Robert's personal story was not told during their trial as the law required that a defence of provocation could only be argued if the killing was done 'in the heat of the moment'. In response to this injustice a 'Free Violet and Bruce Roberts Campaign' was begun by the Women Behind Bars organisation. The banners were produced as part of this campaign and succeeded in attracting public and media attention and were regularly featured on television news. These banners are icons of the successful campaign which resulted in the release of Violet and Bruce Roberts and the subsequent change to the NSW Crimes Act to provide recognition of the impact and effects of domestic violence.

Object information

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