ONE INDIVIDUAL CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE !

 

"WALL OF ACTIVISM" of Anthony Papa  (photo by Andy Kropa)

"To be successful in advocating an issue is to keep pushing it to the public.  My job as an activist is to continue to find ways to keep the issue in the news so it becomes a repetitive theme, akin to a moving poem or a haunting melody"  Anthony Papa

I have generated hundreds of news stories on criminal justice issues and the drug war. The power of the written word is essential in reaching target audiences to change or guide public opinion. It is the equalizer in the world of politics where justice is defined by the party that holds power.

 

Examples of my Letters to the Editor

 

To the Editor:

Brutal Price Paid for Guard’s Injury, Inmates Say” (front page, Nov. 15) brought back bad memories of my 12 years doing hard time in Sing Sing prison.

I can attest to the violence that occurs in prison. The violence that occurred when I was there came from both prison guards and prisoners. This is the way life in prison is. It’s a horrible place that breeds a pervasive predatory environment that includes both prisoners and prison guards.

I learned to adapt to my situation, but adaptation came at a cost. I became desensitized to the violence that I witnessed around me. One thing you learn on the inside is how easily the ugliness of prison life seeps into your skin, souring the lives of everyone there, including prisoners, civilians and guards.

ANTHONY PAPA

New York

The writer, manager of media and artist relations for the Drug Policy Alliance, is the author ofThis Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency.”

The Opinion Pages | Letter

Clemency in Drug Cases

To the Editor:

As someone who was sentenced to life in prison for a nonviolent drug offense and who was granted clemency, I applaud President Obama for commuting the sentences of 22 drug offenders (National Briefing, April 1). Eight of these people were rotting away in prison for life, sentenced under archaic draconian laws, and had no other relief to regain their lost freedom.

The media often forget that the punishment reaches far beyond the prison walls and affects the family and loved ones of those incarcerated.

I hope that governors who have the power to grant clemency follow the lead of Mr. Obama and use their executive power to save the lives of prisoners who have served many years and who are fully rehabilitated and stuck in prison because of the drug war.

ANTHONY PAPA

New York

The writer, manager of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance, is the author of “15 to Life.”

To the Editor:

Re “Gov. Cuomo Drops the Ball” (editorial, April 9):

I was saddened by the resistance of many New York State politicians to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal to give prisoners a college education.

I served 12 years in prison, and while there I acquired three college degrees, so I can attest to their value. Not only is a college education lifesaving in a prison environment, it is life-changing. Having my college degrees helped me greatly in my re-entry into society.

When I got my first job, they helped me to walk on a straight and narrow road that kept me in check. It is a crying shame that a program like college for prisoners that is proved to reduce rates of recidivism is rejected because of the same old political rhetoric based on looking tough on crime.

It’s time for all politicians to be smart on crime and, for the good of society, put aside their personal agendas.

ANTHONY PAPA
New York, April 9, 2014

The writer is the author of “15 to Life” and the manager of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

 

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/letters/la-le-0817-saturday-drug-sentencing-20130817,0,275892.story 

LA Times  8/17/13 in response to : Re "Rethinking drug sentences," Editorial, Aug. 13

Letters: Doing more on drug sentencing

It isn't clear what the administration's new policy on drug sentencing will mean for people currently behind bars.

President Obama should use his authority to commute the sentences of the roughly 5,000 people who were charged under the old 100-to-1 crack-to-powder cocaine ratio who are not eligible for relief.

Society would be better served by not locking up people with extraordinarily long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.

I know because I was sentenced to 15-to-life under mandatory sentencing laws. I wound up serving 12 years because I received clemency from the governor of New York. It was a waste of human life and tax dollars that could have been used for needy communities.

Anthony Papa

New York

The writer is the media relations manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

 

  NY Times  Published: August 9, 2011

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/10/opinion/is-solitary-confinement-inhumane-or-indispensable.html

Is Solitary Confinement Inhumane? Or Indispensable?

To the Editor:

It’s probably surprising that someone who lived in Sing Sing, a maximum-security prison, for a dozen years disagrees with the crux of your argument in your Aug. 2 editorial “Cruel Isolation.” But anyone who lived in my shoes would understand the need for solitary confinement.

I was a nonviolent, first-time drug offender sentenced to two 15-years-to-life sentences under the Rockefeller drug laws of New York State. I lived among many of the most dangerous men I have even seen. Some of these violent, uncontrollable predators would cut your throat in a minute for just bumping into them. Most of them had sentences in which they would never see the light of freedom again.

These men came to have no concern for human life. In prison, you live with the fear that your life could end at any moment. Without solitary confinement, a prison within a prison, out-of-control prisoners would cause havoc.

The situation at Pelican Bay State Prison in California needed to be addressed because of the cruel and unusual conditions there. Improvements surely are needed, but solitary confinement should not be abolished; it plays an important role in maintaining security and safety within a prison.

ANTHONY PAPA
New York, Aug. 2, 2011

The writer is the author of “15 to Life.”

 
 

My LA Times LTE/Balancing California's budget

December 6, 2010
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/letters/

Balancing California's budget

December 6, 2010

 As a former prisoner who served 12 years in a New York state maximum-security prison for a non-violent drug crime, I know too well the dangers of overcrowding. To say that the gates of hell will open if California prisoners are released is off-base.

 Those incarcerated are dying from medical neglect and suicide, and corrections officers' lives are in danger. What more proof do you need to fix a broken system that is captive to political fear-mongering?

 The Supreme Court needs to do the right thing and uphold a judicial order that California reduce its prison population.

Anthony Papa

New York

The writer is manager of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9501EEDB123CF932A3575BC0A96F9C8B63

LETTER; The Meth Epidemic

To the Editor:

In ''Methland vs. Mythland'' (column, July 21), Timothy Egan talks about the methamphetamine epidemic that has been created by alarmist media coverage. The meth epidemic still exists in the minds of some small-town citizens.

Recently the City Council of Washington, Mo., became the first local government in the country to require a prescription for cold medications that contain pseudoephedrine, a substance that can be used to manufacture methamphetamine. This action was the result of the Missouri Legislature's inaction to combat the meth problem and has attracted interest from other cities, setting a dangerous precedent.

The war on drugs creates convenient vehicles of seemingly being tough on crime while hiding behind the shield of public safety. But this shield gets worn down when our basic rights are curtailed through its use.

We need to invest scarce public resources into educating the public about the use of meth and providing high-quality treatment options to cure addiction, not create needless legislation.

Anthony Papa
New York, July 21, 2009

The writer is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0DE2D91230F931A15750C0A96F9C8B63&scp=25&sq=anthony%20papa&st=cse 

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR; Time To Get On Board Drug-Sentencing Reform

To the Editor:

Re ''A $20 Bag, and What Might Have Been'' (Dispatches, March 1), about the Rockefeller drug laws and Louis Carrasquillo, who served 12 1/2 years for selling $20 worth of crack cocaine:

Unfortunately, Mr. Carrasquillo's story is a typical one. When I arrived at Sing Sing prison in 1985 to serve a 15-year-to-life sentence under the mandatory provisions of the Rockefeller laws, I soon found out that many of the prisoners had drug habits and were serving long sentences for possessing small amounts of drugs.

Most of them should have gotten treatment instead of incarceration but did not. This was primarily because of the design of the laws, under which district attorneys control who goes to drug treatment and who doesn't. In fact, district attorneys are rewarded for convicting someone, not for placing them into treatment. This is why judges should maintain discretion in determining who goes to treatment, not district attorneys.

This month, the Assembly passed legislation that would return judicial discretion to judges and offer treatment instead of jail for low-level offenders. It is time for the Senate and Governor Paterson to help reform these laws.

Anthony Papa

Long Island City

The author is a communications specialist with the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

  •  

    LA Times LTE http://articles.latimes.com/2007/dec/14/opinion/le-friday14.s7

    A first change in drug sentencing

    Re "Justices OK latitude on sentencing," Dec. 11, 2007

    Finally, the Supreme Court has positively reacted to the cruelty of a bad sentencing law that has been tossed around between legislatures and the courts for 20 years. In that time, an alarming number of people's lives have been destroyed by racially discriminatory crack-cocaine laws that disproportionately sentenced people of color. However, the decision to give judges more power to use sentencing discretion is only a first step in correcting these clearly draconian laws that were constructed because of the politics of the drug war. I hope it sends a clear message to prosecutors that mandatory minimum sentences are a part of an archaic judicial structure that needs to be overhauled in the name of justice.

    Anthony Papa

    Communications Specialist

    Drug Policy Alliance

    New York

     

    Some newspaper  videos

    Anthony Papa  featured      Wednesday, July 7, 2010
    http://video.nytimes.com/video/2009/03/04/nyregion/1194838345272/the-rockefeller-drug-laws.html

    The New York State Assembly is set to pass legislation to repeal much of what remains of the '70s-era drug laws

    Produced by Jigar Mehta N.Y./Region

     

    Rockefeller Drug Laws Challenged - New York Post

    Anthony Papa featured

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1E8bTUbquM     Mar 26, 2009

     

    NY Times articles I have been in and some addtional Letters to the Editor I have written

    1.            The War on Drugs,N ow in Schools

    ...build trust between students and adults. Forcing students to urinate in a cup is not the way to keep them drug-free. Anthony Papa New York The writer is communications specialist, Drug Policy Alliance.

    April 1, 2007 - New York and Region - 152 words

    2.            Spitzer's Prison Fight

    ...lead to a better functioning criminal justice system that will be more cost-efficient for the people of New York. Anthony Papa New York, Feb. 12, 2007 The writer is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.

    February 18, 2007 - Opinion - 132 words

    3.            Don't Misuse the Law To Punish Kingpins

    ...has become a standard response by district attorneys to block applications for re-sentencing under the new reforms. Anthony Papa New York The writer, a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance, is the author of a book about his experience...

    August 13, 2006 - New York and Region - 255 words

    4.            Don't Misuse the Law To Punish Kingpins

    ...has become a standard response by district attorneys to block applications for re-sentencing under the new reforms. ANTHONY PAPA New York The writer, a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance, is the author of a book about his experience...

    August 13, 2006 - New York and Region - 255 words

    5.            Time Eases Tough Drug Laws, but Fight Goes On

    ...ounces of cocaine and sentenced to 20 years to life for the crime, which was her first offense. In another case, Anthony Papa, 49, spent 12 years in prison for making a delivery of four and a half ounces of cocaine, in 1984, in exchange for...

    April 16, 2004 - By AL BAKER - Front Page - 1465 words

    6.            Yearning to Vote

    ...do so. I was finally accepted by society in my capacity as a citizen. The right to vote is an important part of the rehabilitation process and should be given to those who have paid their debt to society. ANTHONY PAPA New York, Oct. 17, 2002

    October 19, 2002 - Opinion - 171 words

    7.            Commissioner's Ban on Inmates' Art Sales Ends Annual Show

    ...in a far more positive state of mind,'' he said. ''It's puzzling to me that anyone would take that away.'' Anthony Papa, a former convict who studied art at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility and who gained wide acclaim after his self...

    March 30, 2002 - By ROBERT F. WORTH - New York and Region - 570 words

    8.            Westchester Journal; Among the Comfortable, Prison Issues Stir Unease

    ...victims.'' Among the ex-inmates at the conference, called ''Can Anything Good Come Out of Prison?,'' was Anthony Papa, whose painting talent helped win him clemency on a drug conviction in 1997. A recurrent issue was family ties...

    March 27, 2001 - By HUBERT B. HERRING - New York and Region - 740 words

    9.            Our Towns; Protesting Time Served As Time Lost

    ...traffic jam. But there were no complaints about the hour or two lost. These passengers measure wasted time in years. Anthony Papa spent 12 years in prison for making a delivery of four and a half ounces of cocaine in exchange for $500. ''I was...

    May 10, 2000 - By MATTHEW PURDY - New York and Region - 823 words

    11.       SUNDAY: JUNE 21, 1998: THE INTERNET; con.com

    ...to stuff best suited for motel velvet. Of the many con artistes, one who seems the most ''ripe for hanging'' is Anthony Papa, a harshly angular stylist whose on-line gallery contains such make-no-mistake-about-it works as ''Mandatory...

    June 21, 1998 - Magazine - 550 words

    12.       Critics Say Rockefeller Drug Laws Pack the Prisons, Force Plea Deals and Hit Small-Timers the Hardest

    ...convicted, leaving the judge with no alternative but to impose the mandatory sentence. In one such earlier case, Anthony Papa, a radio repairman, got 15 years to life for carrying four and a half ounces of cocaine. He served more than 11 years...

    January 19, 1998 - By CHRISTOPHER S. WREN - New York and Region - 1602 words

    13.       WESTCHESTER GUIDE

    Former Inmate's Art There has been no shortage of accolades for Anthony Papa and his paintings on exhibit at the Northern Westchester Center for the Arts in Mount Kisco through Dec. 7. Articles about him...

    November 23, 1997 - By ELEANOR CHARLES - New York and Region - 1163 words

    14.       Tony Papa's Creative Block

    THE window opened and Anthony Papa sniffed the sultry air and looked out at the city through his...time maybe it will not be about prison. Maybe it will be about Anthony Papa's bright future instead. ''I dislike the term prison artist...

    July 6, 1997 - By EDWARD LEWINE - New York and Region - 3685 words

    15.       Metro Digest

    ...repeatedly battered her throughout their seven-year marriage. Six other inmates -- including an award-winning artist, Anthony Papa, whose work has been displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art -- were freed as part of a gubernatorial tradition...

    December 24, 1996 - New York and Region - 632 words

    16.       7 Prisoners Get Clemency From Pataki

    ...as part of a tradition of commuting sentences at Christmastime. The others -- including an award-winning artist, Anthony Papa, whose work has been displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art -- had been serving long prison terms because...

    December 24, 1996 - By RAYMOND HERNANDEZ - New York and Region - 749 words

    17.       Survival Found At the Tip Of a Paintbrush;One Sing Sing Prisoner Uses Art as a Defense

    In his first weeks and months in a windowless cell, Anthony Papa missed the sky. So he drew a window on the wall, complete with a sylvan landscape. Since then he has painted obsessively, through...

    July 28, 1996 - By DONATELLA LORCH - New York and Region - 1701 words

    18.       Minor Players, Major Penalties; The Rockefeller Drug Laws Took Prisoners -- for 15-to-Life

    ...University of New York at Albany, he says, and then ran an upstate drug gang. But there have been plenty of people like Anthony Papa, who ran a small automobile radio repair shop in the Bronx and says he agreed to deliver a little more than four ounces...

    March 5, 1995 - By JOSEPH B. TREASTER, - New York and Region - 1729 words

    19.       Abroad at Home; Crime and Politics

    ...brought home to me the other day by a letter to the editor of The New York Times from a prison inmate in New York State, Anthony Papa. "I'm a first-time offender in my 10th year of a 15-year-to-life sentence for passing an envelope containing...

    February 20, 1995 - By ANTHONY LEWIS - Opinion - 677 words

    20.       Treatment, Not Jail, Saves Lives and Money; Let Rehabilitated Go

    ...good portion of their sentences and are ready to return to society as productive citizens? I made a mistake when I was young. I needed a wake-up call, not to be thrown into a cage for 15 years. ANTHONY PAPA Ossining, N.Y., Jan. 30, 1995

    February 6, 1995 - Opinion - 195 words

    21.       To Let Jean Harris Go Sends Wrong Message; Human Lives Wasting

    ...politicians. Why waste taxpayer money on men and women who have already paid dearly for the crimes they have committed; keeping them in the dark dungeons of New York State is surely not the answer. ANTHONY PAPA Ossining, N.Y., March 21, 1992

    April 9, 1992 - Opinion - 131 words

  • ________________

    My LA Times LTE/Balancing California's budget

    December 6, 2010
    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/letters/

    Balancing California's budget

    December 6, 2010

     As a former prisoner who served 12 years in a New York state maximum-security prison for a non-violent drug crime, I know too well the dangers of overcrowding. To say that the gates of hell will open if California prisoners are released is off-base.

     Those incarcerated are dying from medical neglect and suicide, and corrections officers' lives are in danger. What more proof do you need to fix a broken system that is captive to political fear-mongering?

     The Supreme Court needs to do the right thing and uphold a judicial order that California reduce its prison population.

    Anthony Papa

    New York

    The writer is manager of media relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.

     

    LA Times LTE http://articles.latimes.com/2007/dec/14/opinion/le-friday14.s7

    A first change in drug sentencing

    Re "Justices OK latitude on sentencing," Dec. 11, 2007

    Finally, the Supreme Court has positively reacted to the cruelty of a bad sentencing law that has been tossed around between legislatures and the courts for 20 years. In that time, an alarming number of people's lives have been destroyed by racially discriminatory crack-cocaine laws that disproportionately sentenced people of color. However, the decision to give judges more power to use sentencing discretion is only a first step in correcting these clearly draconian laws that were constructed because of the politics of the drug war. I hope it sends a clear message to prosecutors that mandatory minimum sentences are a part of an archaic judicial structure that needs to be overhauled in the name of justice.

    Anthony Papa

    Communications Specialist

    Drug Policy Alliance

    New York

     

    ________________________

    BELOW FIND EXAMPLES OF PROJECTS ANTHONY PAPA HAS HELPED OTHER ORGANIZATIONS SPIN

    ____________

    Environmental Justice

     

    Ex-prisoner testifies at nuke panel | The Journal News | LoHud.com ...

    www.lohud.com/article/20121024/.../Ex-prisoner-testifies-nuke-pane...
    1 day ago – U.S. judges hear safety worries as part of Indian Pt. relicensing ... for other prisoners but also for guards,” said Tony Papa, who served 12 years ...

     

     

    Clearwater to Provide Testimony in Indian Point Relicensing Hearings

    www.clearwater.org/.../clearwater-to-provide-testimony-in-indian-poi...
    10/23/12– Tony Papa – A former inmate in Sing Sing prison — about eight miles from Indian Point — on a first-time drug possession offense, now a drug .

     

    CRIMINAL JUSTICE

     MCI phone scam

    Marion Rodriguez, Organizer

    The New York Campaign for Telephone Justice

    212 614 6421         646 667 9417

    mrodriguez@ccr-ny.org         www.telephonejustice.org

    New York Daily News

    November 18, 2005

     Captive customers

     Bronx: Re Errol Louis' column "Dial R for ripoff" (Opinions, Nov. 15): I spent 12 years as a prisoner at Sing Sing and remember all too well the pain of seeing my poor mother spend her entire Social Security check to pay the phone bill. Without those calls, I never would have survived my sentence. I think MCI should be where its ex-CEO Bernie Ebbers is today.

     Anthony Papa, Drug Policy Alliance

     ___________________

    Death Penalty : Save  Stan Tookie Williams

    Lee Wengraf
    Campaign to End the Death Penalty-NYC

    518/253-5029

    Stop the Execution of Stan Tookie Williams
    Featuring Anthony Papa, activist against the Rockefeller Drug Laws, Yusef Salaam
    ... DECEMBER 1 - Columbus, Ohio Speakout for Stan Tookie Williams Including ...
    savestantookiewilliams.blogspot.com/ - 164k - Cached - Similar pages

    __________________________

    Mental health alternatives to solitary confinement

    http://www.boottheshu.org/

    Emily Benedetto
    MHASC Coordinator
    212.780.1400 X7723

    mental health alternatives to solitary confinement presents:

    the SHU don’t fit!

     a night featuring live music from damian quinones

    also taking the stage:

    Jamie Fellner,  Human Rights Watch

    Anthony Papa, Author of “15 to Life”

    Thomas Duane, New York State Senator

     

    WHEN: 6:00pm - 9:00pm: wednesday, november 30th

    WHERE: bowery poetry club, 308 bowery (at bleecker st.)

    TIX: admission is $10
    TIX PLUS: $20 gets you in with a signed“Stories from the SHU”  book

    SCOOP: to RSVP or donate to this event, please contact emily at (212) 780-1400, ext. 7723

     

    · funds raised from this unique event will support activities aimed at ending the placement of psychiatrically disabled prisoners into solitary confinement

    · if you cannot attend, please direct donations to: emily benedetto, c/o mhasc, 666 broadway, 3rd floor, new york city, 10012

     

    -__________________________
     

    Prison Art Ban in Boston

     

    Taking away prisoners art ***
    ... , which is a very important element in re-entering society,Anthony Papa said. Instead of attacking programs like this, we should be expanding them. Tony Newman, Director of Communications, Drug Policy Alliance For more information, see www.15yearstolife.com/Artban.htm on the Web. Home page | Current storylist ...
    http://www.socialistworker.org/2005-2/568/568_08_PrisonersArt.shtml

     

    Foundation displays talents, woes of the incarcerated

    Prison arts show runs on Dec. 10 and 17

    By: Khadijah Ali-Coleman

    Issue date: 12/8/05 Section: COVER
     
    Anthony Papa was granted clemency by New York Gov. Pataki after his self-portrait was hung in the New York Whitney Museum.
    Media Credit: Kenny Tracy/District Chronicles
    Anthony Papa was granted clemency by New York Gov. Pataki after his self-portrait was hung in the New York Whitney Museum.

    [Click to enlarge]
     

     


    Privatization of US Prisons

    ...Anthony Papa, a former inmate of the infamous Sing Sing prison and author of the bestseller "15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom," stands at his display table at the show, with copies of his books and sketchings on hand. "The prison system is not rehabilitative in nature," Papa maintains. "Instead, they are Republican territories …towns are built around prisons. This is a cash cow." Ina, Illinois, population 450, is an example of one of many small-town cities that are home to a prison that receives massive tax revenue. "Before [Ina's] prison was built, the city took in just $17,000 a year in motor fuel tax revenue. Now the figure is more like $72,000. More than half of that money is prison revenue."

    Papa, who was arrested in 1985 for four ounces of cocaine, was granted clemency by New York Gov. Pataki after his self-portrait was hung in the New York Whitney Museum . He strives to inform the public of what is developing into the norm. However, he does a lot of his activism regarding U.S. prisons from a distance or during brief visits to the States. "My wife didn't want to be in the States anymore," he shares. He now lives in Brazil with his 4-year-old son and wife who is a practicing Yogi and dancer. He returns occasionally for shows like this one and other opportunities to shop his wares and speak on prison privatization and urban exploitation.

    He recently teamed with the organizers of the Hip Hop Youth Summit Council, leading workshops that promote artistic expression. Papa also maintains he keeps young people aware of the prison system's design to keep urban youth enslaved and dependent on a system that promotes "individuals spending their most productive years of life in prison."

    Papa, of Puerto Rican descent, maintains that government and corporations will protect the concept of prison because, "it's not rehabilitative; it's a master plan. It's about the prison industrial complex." This system, says Papa, is one that has grown from the image of striped-shirt wearing prisoners making license plates to men and women, mostly of color, who work in factories, do telemarketing, administrative work and create many products that were, in the past, fashioned overseas in sweat factories operated by foreign faces working for pennies a day.

    State and private industry has found a new way to bring jobs home to the United States without having to pay minimum wage dollars, says Papa. The Virginia Department of Corrections boasts on its web site that inmates, through Virginia Correctional Enter-prises work as upholsterers, furniture builders, printers and commercial laundry workers. In addition, inmate work crews work as highway crews maintaining rural highways through the department's contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

    The Private Industry Enhancement program enables private businesses to manufacture within prisons using inmate labor. Inmates working in PIE jobs are paid prevailing wages and are required to return the majority of earnings to pay court costs, restitution, child support and a portion of prison housing costs.

    "Joint ventures in manufacturing between VCE and private entities increase the quality and value of VCE products while expanding the market for community businesses," reads the VDC Web site.

    "Prisons are a corporate asset," Papa says. "The prisoner is fuel for the machine."

    As art buyers and gaze stupefied at the museum-quality model of a pirate ship and purchase intricate mosaic art and simple colored pencil sketchings by convicted men and women scattered throughout the U.S., one wonders and is fascinated by how the machine-one that so contradictory and confusing-- is capable of creating artistry so beautiful.

    To learn more about the Prisons Foundation, visit www.Prisons- Foundation.org. To learn more about Anthony Papa, visit www.15yearstolife.com.

    Additional reporting by Norrelle P. Combest.
     

    FELONY DISENFRANCISEMENT

    The Sentencing Project
    514 Tenth Street, NW
    Suite 1000
    Washington DC 20004
    Phone: 202-628-0871
    Fax: 202-628-1091

    Yearning To Vote
    I felt the pain of felony disenfranchisement and was being further punished for
    my crime. ... Anthony Papa, New York, Oct. 17, 2002 - --- MAP posted-by: Jo-D.
    www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v02/n1947/a05.html?36053 - 2k - Cached - Similar pages - Remove result

    Democracy Now! | 15 To Life: Artist, Prisoner and Author Tony Papa ...
    ANTHONY PAPA: I vote. Definitely, I voted. I vote -- my right to vote was taken
    ... ANTHONY PAPA: That was called, "A Vote." I painted that while I was in ...
    www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/11/08/1513258 - 30k - Cached - Similar pages - Remove result

    _________________________________________

     

    COUNTER PUNCH / AMERICAS BEST POLITICAL NEWSLETTER

    http://www.counterpunch.org/herschel12042004.html

    Weekend Edition
    December 4 / 6, 2004

    An Interview with Artist Anthony Papa

    "Art Can be a Weapon of the Oppressed"

    By LUCY HERSCHEL

    Anthony Papa served 12 years of a 15-years-to-life sentence as a first-time, nonviolent felony drug offender under New York state's Rockefeller Drug Laws (RDLs). In prison, he became an artist and a political activist. Since his release in 1997, Papa has fought tirelessly along with others to repeal New York's draconian drug laws, cofounding the group Mothers of the New York Disappeared.

    Now, Feral House has published his book 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom. In October, the Whitney Museum of American Art held a party to launch the book. LUCY HERSCHEL spoke with Anthony.

    THE SUBTITLE of your book is "How I Painted My Way to Freedom." Can you explain how that happened?

    I WAS sentenced to 15-to-life in maximum-security prison in Ossining, N.Y. I was lost. I really didn't know how I was going to survive, until one day I discovered my talent as an artist. My discovery of my art was life saving, it maintained my humanity, my self-esteem, it gave me meaning in my life and helped me transcend the negativity of the prison environment.

    Sing Sing was a cesspool. Parts of the prison were like the old Times Square--you could buy any type of weapon, TV sets, any form of contraband, drugs. There were more drugs in Sing Sing than in the streets.

    The point I like to make is, if you can't control drugs in a maximum-security prison, how can you control drugs in a free society?

    More importantly, my art helped me discover my political awareness--who I was in society. I discovered the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and Picasso's "Guernica"--those were my influences where I saw that art could be used as a weapon of the oppressed against the oppressor. I began painting social statements against the death penalty and the prison-industrial complex.

    One of my pieces, "Corporate Asset," portrays the prison-industrial complex before the term was even coined. It shows how the family unit is taken away from the home, the prisoner becomes food for the machine--the systematic dehumanization of the prisoner who becomes a nameless statistic going through the revolving doors of justice on the road to recidivism, only to be plucked in again at any time by the system.

    It's a visual narrative of important social concepts. For me, the greatest asset of an artist is using art as a social commentary.

    WERE YOU ever afraid that the political message in your work would hurt your chances at clemency?

    ACTUALLY, MANY times I debated this. While my clemency petition was pending, my counselor came to me and told me to slow down. Although he personally agreed with what I was doing, he thought I was jeopardizing my chances at freedom. Apparently, the warden had come to him and had wanted to withdraw the letter of support he had sent to the governor for me, because I was so outspoken.

    But I felt I had an obligation to speak out against the atrocity of imprisonment through my art.

    For example, I painted one series called "Contraband Search." Coming back from a visit one day, I was put through a body cavity search three times, and I felt very dehumanized by it. I went to the library and I found policies and directives on how C.O.s are to conduct body cavity searches, and I was appalled by the 20 pages of directives describing the methods of all types of searches.

    So I painted a series of six-page paintings about this issue, and I tried to send them out--but the work was confiscated.

    I called my lawyer to say that I wanted to sue them because they took away my right to create--first they want me and now they want my mind. He said, "Look, slow down, don't sue them, you have you clemency petition pending, and you're going to hurt your chances at clemency. Handle it internally."

    So I was forced to strip down the directives off the paintings. But when I went back to my cell I thought, "Now they have my mind." So I made diagrams of where the directives were on the painting and sent the directives out separately in the mail.

    Later, I got a call that the deputy of security wanted to see me, and I thought, "Now I'm in trouble, they must have found the directives in the mail. I just blew my shot for freedom." Instead, he told me that he just got off the phone with the governor, and he said, "You're free." I just broke down crying. That was an amazing experience.

    So even though I did jeopardize my freedom, I thought it was my duty and my obligation. Because I had this vehicle, I became a kind of cause celebre, and a lot of people wanted to come in the prison and interview me. I used my art as a vehicle to talk out against the system.

    I thank Governor Pataki for my clemency, but I have become an activist against him and his stance on Rockefeller reform, which is nonexistent. Three years ago, for the first time in 28 years, the governor openly came out and spoke against the drug laws. Then the Senate and State Assembly leaders also came out.

    So you have all three top dogs of New York State government wanting to change the laws, but for three years, they've just argued about what changes to make. So throughout all this political rhetoric, people are still wasting away in prison. I will continue to use my art to fight the governor to compel him to change these laws.

    SO IF the top three legislators all agree, why hasn't there been reform?

    BECAUSE OF the prison-industrial complex--money raised at local, state and federal levels through the business of the prison. Since 1982, 33 prisons have been built in up-state, rural Republican territories. It's about the dollar. That's why people are still in prison, that's why these laws have not changed. That coupled with the disfunctionality of the legislative process in Albany.

    The "war on drugs" is a war on people itself and primarily people of color. It's about controlling a certain population. If you look at New York State, 75 percent of the 19,000 people who are locked up under these laws come from seven inner-city neighborhoods. So this is about institutionalized racism.

    It's very hard to change the system when it's run by politics that are dictated by personal gain. All politicians are thinking about is their own political careers. They don't care about people locked up in prison; they don't care about anything else.

    YOU TOLD me about a new district attorney who, with the support of activists, won a big upset victory in Albany by running strictly on an anti-Rockefeller Drug Law platform, beating out an incumbent who was a strong supporter of these laws. How do you think he won?

    MY GROUP, the Mothers of the New York Disappeared that I cofounded in 1998 through the William Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, laid the foundation by going to Albany dozens of times, meeting with officials, protesting in the street and getting tremendous publicity up in Albany, so the people in Albany were educated about the draconian nature of the RDLs.

    They saw it was a waste of tax money, of human life, money that could be better spent on needy communities, to feed the homeless, put shoes on shoeless children.

    When I came out in 1997, I went to Albany with different groups to lobby politicians, and I saw that I was wasting my time trying to change the laws from the top down. All these politicians had dual opinions about the laws. The public opinion was: "We support these laws. They work." But behind closed doors, they said would say, "Look, I know these laws don't work, they cost a lot of money, but I can't look soft on crime because I don't want to loose my job."

    From that point, I said to myself, "We aren't going to win it up here. We're going to have to develop a plan to work it from the bottom up."

    That's why I started the Mothers of the New York Disappeared. We actually changed public opinion by taking the issue to the street and putting a human face on it. We formed the group based on the Argentine mothers. They fought the military when they overtook the government in the 1970s and '80s. Some 30,000 people were murdered--they disappeared. They held candlelight vigils and the Plaza de Mayo, and got a lot of public sympathy and public pressure from around the world to seek justice.

    We met May 8, 1998, the 25-year anniversary of the RDLs, right across from St. Patrick's Cathedral, and we staged our first rally, and all the New York press was there. We saw that this was how we were going to change these laws--by getting the press involved and reaching the masses with these human interest stories.

    And from a small, dedicated group of maybe 25 people, in five years, we changed the face of the war on drugs and how it was fought in New York. What we did is we took to the grassroot street level. Now that model has expanded to other groups that hold rallies now across the country.

    WHERE DO you think the fight against the Rockefeller Drug Laws should go from here?

    WE NEED to continue to put pressure on the governor, and we need to do it in a variety of ways. I had a meeting with Larry Fisher, LL Cool J's former manager, who runs an organization called Hip Hop for Youth, about going to Albany in January during Pataki's State of the State address and having an event with different rappers.

    The governor's proposed legislation is watered-down reform. It's a slap in the face to activists and to the people in prison.

    In 2002, Pataki pushed through the Senate a reform bill that would have affected some of the loved ones we were advocating for. The next day, the governor met with the Mother of the New York Disappeared and said, "If you support us, your loved ones will be free."

    So that was hanging like the carrot dangling on a string. And we actually rejected it, and it was hard for a lot of mothers--some of these women are disabled, in wheelchairs, dying of cancer, their loved ones stuck in prison.

    But we thought about the whole group. Instead of letting a few hundred people out, we want to build a movement to save thousands and thousands and thousands of lives in the long run.

    AFTER THE election, Bush is claiming a mandate for all this policies, including the "war on terror." Do you see a connection between the "war on drugs" and Bush's "war on terror"--the locking up of immigrants, Guantánamo Bay and the prison scandals in Iraq?

    IF YOU go to Times Square, they have a Drug Enforcement Administration exhibit, "Drug Traffickers, Terrorists and You," in which they are basically saying, "If you smoke a joint, you're supporting the terrorists." It's total propaganda.

    Drug users today are demonized--they're treated today as Communists were during the McCarthy era, the same way groups of people suspected of terrorism are treated today. This goes with the whole philosophy of controlling certain populations of people with propaganda.

    I don't think Bush has a mandate, I think he stole the election again. But that won't effect my fighting against the war on drugs. I will continue to create ways to fight the government around these draconian laws that lock up certain disenfranchised or marginalized populations in the U.S.

    Lucy Herschel writes for the Socialist Worker. For more information about Anthony Papa's artwork, his book or the fight against the Rockefeller Drug Laws, visit his Web site at www.15yearstolife.com.

     

    Inmate freed by governor does ad for Pataki foe 


    By JOEL STASHENKO
    Associated Press Writer

    October 17, 2002, 9:44 PM EDT

    ALBANY, N.Y. -- A drug offender released from state prison under a grant of clemency from Gov. George Pataki is appearing in a television commercial on behalf of one of Pataki's campaign foes.

    Anthony Papa said he supports Independence Party candidate B. Thomas Golisano because of the Rochester businessman's opposition to the state's mandatory drug sentencing laws that carry former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's name.

    In a new commercial, Papa says he spent 12 years in a "6-by-9 cage" because of a youthful indiscretion with cocaine. He was caught with 4.5 ounces of the drug.

    "It was the only time I got in trouble," Papa said in the ad.

    Papa declared his support for Golisano because the candidate advocates a plan to eliminate the mandatory minimum sentences under the Rockefeller drug laws with a system that allows more sentencing latitude by judges and prosecutors.

    Golisano said his plan would provide treatment instead of incarceration for many offenders, with a 75 percent savings in cost for the state.

    In his commercial, Papa called Golisano's plan "true reform" and said it would eliminate the way the current system is allowed to "waste money, break lives and destroy families."

    "That's why I'm supporting him," Papa said of Golisano.

    Papa, released because of a good prison record and professional artistic abilities, has been a constant advocate of easing the drug laws since he was allowed the chance at early freedom before a parole board by a Pataki clemency decree in 1997. The parole board granted him his freedom.

    Earlier in the 2002 campaign, Papa said he supported Andrew Cuomo, because he liked Cuomo's drug offender reform plan better than the one put forward by Cuomo's foe for the Democratic nomination for governor, state Comptroller H. Carl McCall.

    Papa said in August, "We need somebody with a track record of getting things done like Andrew Cuomo."

    McCall won the Democratic nomination.

    Pataki has advanced reform packages for the drug laws, but Democrats have complained that they do not go far enough. County prosecutors around the state say the drugs laws may be harsh, but that they have been given the tools through special drug courts and other programs to direct offenders with the best chance of recovery into treatment.

    Prosecutors generally support Pataki's approach and oppose those from Democrats.

    Asked about the Papa ad Thursday, Pataki campaign spokesman Michael McKeon said the governor has a "comprehensive and sensible plan" to change the harshest elements of the drug laws. Though seldom invoked, those elements allowed for offenders to receive up to life in prison.

    When asked about Pataki's decision that led to Papa's freedom, McKeon said, "It's a great country."

    Papa could not immediately be reached for comment.

    Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press

    US NY: OPED: Rockefeller's Legacy

    http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v98/n523/a13.html?1778   

    URL: http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v98/n523/a13.html
    Newshawk: Jerry Sutliff
     Source: In These Times
    Pubdate: 12 July 1998
    Contact: itt@inthesetimes.com

    ROCKEFELLER'S LEGACY

    The women, maybe 200 in all, waited in small groups.  They carried bulky old pocketbooks and frayed overnight bags stuffed with food and water and blankets for the long ride upstate.  Several had sleepy children in tow.

    It was 9 p.m.  on a Saturday in May at Columbus Circle in midtown Manhattan, where the Operation Prison Gap buses pick up weekend passengers headed for places like Attica, Auburn, Elmira and Ogdensburg.  "Get down off that bench before you fall," Violet Vargas barks at her 4-year-old daughter.  "Her father's in Riverview," Vargas says.  "Five-to-15 for drugs.  I try to see him every weekend."

    The bus ride to Riverview Correctional Facility takes 10 hours one way.  It costs $45 round trip.  "We get there in the morning and my daughter gets to spend most of the day with him," Vargas says.  "The guards at Riverview are nice.  It's a big sacrifice for me, but he's been a good father."

    A few feet away, Anthony Papa passes out leaflets to the waiting women.  "Is your man in jail for drugs?" Papa asks them.  "Fill out this sheet.  We've got to change these Rockefeller Drug Laws."

    Papa is practically a Ph.D.  on the Rockefeller laws.  In 1985, he was a successful middle-class businessman.  He owned an auto-repair and radio business in the Bronx.  He was married with a family and had never been in trouble with the law.  Every week, he played in a bowling league in Yonkers.

    A member of his team turned out to be a drug dealer who distributed cocaine at bowling alleys across suburban Westchester County.  One day, the guy asked if Papa wanted to make some easy money.  He offered him $500 to deliver an envelope of cocaine to the town of Mt.  Vernon.  Papa foolishly agreed.  The courier who gave him the envelope turned out to be an undercover police informant.  When Papa delivered the 4.5 ounces of coke, 20 cops were waiting.

    The guys who set up Papa copped a plea.  Papa went to trial and was convicted on two counts, sales and possession.  The judge gave him a break: He sentenced Papa to one 15-to-life sentence instead of two.  Papa served 12 years in Sing Sing.

    In prison, he earned two bachelor's degrees and a master's from the New York Theological Seminary.  He became a recognized artist, even exhibiting some paintings at the Whitney Museum.

    He would still be in jail if Gov.  George Pataki hadn't granted him clemency in December 1996.  Pataki, following the tradition of past governors, pardons a handful of Rockefeller Law inmates every Christmas.  Papa now works as a legal assistant at a patent and trademark law firm.  In his spare time he is trying to build a movement to restore some sanity to our justice system.

    When the New York drug laws were enacted 25 years ago by then Gov.  Nelson Rockefeller, they were the toughest in the nation.  Even today, a first-time offender convicted of selling 2 ounces of cocaine in New York gets a mandatory sentence of 15 years-to-life.  Drug offenses are treated as harshly as murder, rape and kidnapping.

    As a result, the jails have exploded with drug felons.  In 1973, there were 12,500 inmates in the New York state prison system.  Today there are more than 69,000.  In 1980, 57 percent of prison inmates were there for violent crimes, only 11 percent for drugs.  By last year, those rates were almost reversed.  "The Rockefeller laws were the prototype," says Robert Gangi, director of the Correctional Association of New York.  "During the '70s and '80s, virtually every state in the nation adopted mandatory sentencing laws based on the Rockefeller model for drug and repeat felony convictions."

    Pataki and many other law-and-order Republicans admit the mandatory drug sentences haven't worked, but they don't dare look soft on crime by overhauling them.  Some, like Warren Anderson, who was Republican majority leader in the state Senate when Rockefeller pushed through the original laws, are now campaigning quietly to restore some discretion to judges.  Other groups, like the Correctional Association of New York and the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, are seeking total repeal of the laws, a far less likely possibility.

    Rockefeller has been dead a long time.  But thousands are living out his legacy behind bars.  Children of Rockefeller law convicts are left to grow up without their fathers or mothers whose sentences are obscene compared to some violent felons.  Robert Chambers, for instance, who strangled Jennifer Levin in Central Park a decade ago, got five-to- 15 years.  Joel Steinberg got eight-to-25 for the cocaine-induced killing of his daughter Lisa.  Wilfred Letlow, who fatally stabbed his wife 92 times in their Queens home., was sentenced to eight-to-25 years for manslaughter.

    But sell 4 ounces of cocaine, and you'll get 15-to-life. 

     

     

     

     

    ____________________________

     

    The District

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/29/AR2006092901341.html 

    The District

    Saturday, September 30, 2006; Page C12



     

    FESTIVALS Out From Behind the Bars Anthony Papa, a prison inmate who became a writer and activist and was ultimately granted clemency by New York Gov. George E. Pataki, is the featured speaker at the first Taste of Justice Fair, which will spotlight the prison system and life within it. The fair will also include arts and crafts created by prisoners. Free. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW. 202-393-1511

     
    THE CHRIS FABRICANT SHOW

    Criminal Justice Counter Spin with Defense Attorney Chris Fabricant
    Author of Busted: Drug War Survival Skills

    PODCASTING FROM NYC ...   Listen to this week's bad news from the criminal justice system, take a tour of holding cell hell in the Bronx criminal court and listen to an interview with Tony Papa, noted drug policy activist and author of 15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedrom. 

    Listen & Subscribe to the Show on iTunes: 
    http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=155730669&s=143441

    Send us an email - ChrisFabricant@gmail.com

    MCF

    Monday, July 24 at 7.30 pm; rebroadcast saturday, july 29 at 7:00 am

     
     
    Rockefeller Drug Law Special
    WLIW Channel 21 
     
    Guests  Anthony Papa, Judge Leslie Croker Synder, Special  Narcotics Prosecutor  Bridget Brennan
    Airs mondays at 7.30 pm; rebroadcasts saturdays at 7.00 am

    Hon. Bridget Brennan, Special Narcotics Prosecutor, New York City
    Anthony Papa, Communication Specialist, Drug Policy Alliance, and author of 15 to Life
    Hon. Leslie Crocker Snyder, former New York State Supreme Court Judge

    For more than thirty years, the Rockefeller Drug Laws have been used as a tool against the war on drugs, imposing 15 years to life sentences for first time offenders. In 2004 these laws were reformed. However, questions have been raised about who really benefits from these reforms. Some people believe that these reforms have allowed drug kingpins--the most serious offenders--to serve lighter sentences instead of first time offenders, who the reforms were intended to protect. Tonight, we speak with Anthony Papa, a former first time offender who served 12 years of a 15 year sentence, and is now an advocate for drug policy reform. We then speak with former New York State Supreme Court Judge Leslie Crocker Snyder and New York City's Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan on how the reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws affect New York's war on drugs.

     


    COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL   March 22, 2005

    -----

    CUNY LAW SCHOOL   March 3 2006

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------

    **FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE**

     

    DRUG WAR REFORM NOW!

    AUTHOR AND DRUG WAR ACTIVIST ANTHONY PAPA IN L.A. TO SPEAK AT

    KEY DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE CONFERENCE, L.A. URBAN POLICY ROUNDTABLE


    November 2005Anthony Papa, author of the acclaimed 15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom (Feral House), noted advocate against the war on drugs and co-founder of the Mothers of the New York Disappeared, will be appearing and signing books in Los Angeles.

     

    •  Thursday November 10 (1:00 p.m.)

    •  Friday November 11 (1:00 p.m.):

    Drug Policy Alliance Conference

    Westin Long Beach

    333 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, CA

    (562) 436-3000

     

     

    Building a Movement for Reason, Compassion and Justice -- The 2005 International Drug Policy Reform Conference (November 10–12; reception on the evening of November 9):  More than 1,000 people from across the country and around the world will gather to learn more about drug policy reform issues. No better opportunity exists to strategize and mobilize for reform.

    About Anthony Papa and 15 to Life:
    15 to Life is the remarkable true story of how one prisoner of the war on drugs painted his way to freedom. Convicted of his first and only criminal offense in a police sting operation, Anthony Papa discovered painting while at Sing-Sing. His 15-year sentence was cut short when one of his works was selected for exhibition at the Whitney Museum, and he was granted clemency by Governor Pataki. Since his release, he has become a noted activist against New York’s outdated draconian drug laws. By using his first-hand prison experience and acclaim as an artist as vehicles of protest, Mr. Papa has been instrumental in bringing drug war reform and awareness to mainstream America.  He has been interviewed by a wide range of print and broadcast media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, Court TV, C-Span, among others, and is a frequent public speaker and college lecturer on critical criminal justice issues.

     

     --------------------------------------------------------------------

    Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable: Upcoming Events
    Nationally acclaimed author and artist Anthony Papa will discuss his battle ...
    Moderated by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, President, LAUPR. Required donation $15 ...
    l

    Saturday, November 12, 2005 10 A.M.

    NATIONALLY ACCLAIMED AUTHOR AND ARTIST ON DRUG LAW REFORM

    Nationally acclaimed author and artist Anthony Papa will discuss his battle
    against New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws and his personal fight for
    freedom after being sentenced to life imprisonment in a New York state prison.
    His art has been displayed in New York's Whitney Museum. He is the author of
    15 to Life.

    WHEN:
    Saturday, November 12 at 10 A.M.

    WHERE:
    Lucy Florence Coffee House
    3351 West 43rd Street, Leimert Park, Los Angeles, CA 90008

    Moderated by Earl Ofari Hutchinson, President, LAUPR

     

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------

     

    NOVEMEBER 26, 2005  

     Prisons Foundation  Art Exhibit

    1718 M Street NW, #151
    Washington, DC 20036
    www.PrisonsFoundation.org 
    for more info contact:
    Dennis@PrisonsFoundation.org
    202-393-1511
    cell 202-492-FREE(3733)

     

    Foundation displays talents, woes of the incarcerated - COVER

    Anthony Papa, a former inmate of the infamous Sing Sing prison and author of the bestseller ... Prisons- Foundation.org. To learn more about Anthony Papa, ...
    www.districtchronicles.com/.../08/Cover/Foundation. Displays.Talents.Woes.Of.The.Incarcerated-1125600.shtml - 49k - Cached - Similar pages

     

    _____________________________________

    NOVEMBER 30, 2005

    mental health alternatives to solitary confinement presents:     the SHU don’t fit!

    Anthony Papa, Author of “15 to Life”

    Thomas Duane, New York State Senator

     Jamie Fellner,  Human Rights Watch

     WHEN: 6:00pm - 9:00pm: wednesday, november 30th

    WHERE: bowery poetry club, 308 bowery (at bleecker st.)

    SCOOP: to RSVP or donate to this event, please contact emily at (212) 780-1400, ext. 7723

    · funds raised from this unique event will support activities aimed at ending the placement of psychiatrically disabled prisoners into solitary confinement

    · if you cannot attend, please direct donations to: emily benedetto, c/o mhasc, 666 broadway, 3rd floor, new york city, 10012

    _________________________________________

    November 30th, 2005

    wbai.org
    Stanley Tookie Williams (co-founder of the Crips Gang) is scheduled for ...
    November 30)- with Anthony Papa, activist against the Rockefeller Drug Laws, ...
     

    New York City - Columbia University -- Press conference and protest for Stan at John Ashcroft's New York City appearance. Featuring Anthony Papa, activist against the Rockefeller Drug Laws, Yusef Salaam, exonerated in Central Park jogger case, and others. At 5:45 pm at 115th and Broadway. Sponsored by Save Tookie Committee NYC (Vieques Brigade, Free Mumia Coalition-NYC, Justice Committee, Campaign to End the Death Penalty, NYers Against the Death Penalty, Green Party, International Socialist Organization).

    _________________________________________

    December 6th 2005

    wbai.org
    Tues., Dec. 6 - Harlem Rally and Benefit for Stan 'Tookie' Williams ... Anthony Papa.
    Anthony Papa was imprisoned under New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws. ...

    NYU Livewire | Tookie's Clemency Campaign Gathers Steam
    According to tookie.com, a pro-Williams Web site, the prosecutor who ...
    Anthony Papa, who was imprisoned under New York’s infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws ...
    journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/livewire/000484.php - 13k - Cached - Similar pages

    _____________________________________________________________________

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

     

    LISTEN TO SOME INTERVIEWS

     

    DEMOCRACY NOW  WITH AMY GOODMAN

     270 STATIONS NATION WIDE  Monday, November 8th, 2004   

     http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/11/08/1513258


    15 To Life: Artist, Prisoner and Author Tony Papa Tells How He Painted His Way to Freedom


    We speak with painter and anti-drug-war activist Tony Papa about his new book, "15 To Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom" which tells the story of how he spent 12 years in prison for his first and only criminal offense. [includes rush transcript]

    We are joined today by celebrated anti-drug-war activist, author, painter and ex-convict Tony Papa.

    He has a new book out called "15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom." It tells the story of how Tony Papa agreed to deliver an envelope of cocaine in a police sting operation in return for $500. His first and only criminal offense cost Papa a 15-year sentence to Sing-Sing, New York State's maximum-security prison. He began painting in prison. When one of his works was selected for exhibition at the Whitney Museum, Papa received intense media attention. After 12 years of hard time, he was granted clemency by Governor Pataki. Since his release, Papa has become a noted activist against draconian drug laws. He joins us in our studio today.

     


     

    CULTURAL BAGGAGE 11/16/04

    Hosted by Dean Becker

    Guests:  Anthony Papa – author of 15 Years to Life, How I Painted

      My Way to Freedom

    (Audio Track) Intro – My name is Dean Becker; Steve Nolin is our engineer.  We invite you to join us as we examine the unvarnished truth about the drug war. 

     Dean:            Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage.  Tonight we’ll hear from Anthony Papa, the author of 15 Years to Life, How I Painted  My Way to Freedom.  We’ll also hear from Sanho Tree from the Institute for Policy Studies about the drug war in Central and South America; and we’ll hear from a medical marijuana patient who lives in the gulag city of Houston, Texas.  Her name – we’ll call her Marsha.  But first up: Poppygate.

     

     

    Richard Johnsons Page Six

    New York Post


    December 17, 2004

     

    SIMMONS RIPPED ON DRUG LAW


    THE man who founded the movement to get the Rockefeller Drug Law penalties repealed has blasted rap mogul Russell Simmons as a "nightmare" who "destroyed" the movement.

    Some of the penalties were merely reduced earlier this week � dashing the dream of Anthony Papa, co-founder of Mothers of the New York Disappeared, who spent over a decade in state prisons after a Rockefeller Law conviction and launched the campaign to have the law repealed.

    Simmons, who has gotten a lot of publicity for campaigning against the tough laws, was present at a bill-signing ceremony Tuesday with Gov. Pataki, where he called the reform "a giant step forward." The laws, passed by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in 1973 and 1974, meant that some low-level drug dealers went to jail for longer sentences than rapists or murderers.

    Papa, now an artist and author of the recently published "15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom," says he was responsible for getting Simmons involved in the movement through Andrew Cuomo.

    "At first it was a dream come true," Papa told The Post's State Editor Fredric U. Dicker in an e-mail, "but it became our worst nightmare. Simmons the businessman's only concern was to cut a deal � he did not care a hoot about human lives."

    Papa is seething that Simmons gave up the initial goal of total repeal in favor of "watered-down reform." He fumes, "Now people like Simmons are patting themselves on their backs along with the governor, [Sen. Majority Leader Joseph] Bruno and [Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver . . . I should have dogged him . . . but [I] figured he would help us. Instead, he destroyed the movement."

    Simmons declined to hit back at Papa, saying that in his opinion, the reforms were a "good deal." "In my experience as a businessman, a good deal usually means everybody has to compromise," he says. "I'm sorry everybody's not happy. I'm glad that something was done.

    "I'm not the reason the deal got made," Simmons states. "My name is not on the paper. But the governor did give me the pen he used, which is an honor . . . I respect and appreciate the hard work Anthony Papa did. I'm sorry he's upset with me."

     


     

    SIMMONS ATTACKED OVER DRUG LAW

    DEF JAM

    DEF JAM founder RUSSELL SIMMONS has been branded a "nightmare" who "destroyed" attempts to get the Rockefeller Drug Law penalties repealed, by the man who led the movement.

    Governor NELSON ROCKEFELLER passed the controversial laws in 1973 and 1974, which means many low-level drug dealers like ANTHONY PAPA, co-founder of MOTHERS OF THE NEW YORK DISAPPEARED, are given longer jail sentences than rapists or murderers.

    Papa enlisted Simmons' help in campaigning against the laws and is devastated the rap mogul attended a bill-signing ceremony on Tuesday (14DEC04) and called the small penalty reductions "a giant step forward", website PAGESIX.COM reports.

    Papa complains, "Now people like Simmons are patting themselves on their backs along with the governor and the Assembly Speaker SHELDON SILVER.

    "I should have dogged him but I figured he would help us. Instead, he was a nightmare and destroyed the movement."

    Simmons counters, "In my experience as a businessman, a good deal usually means everybody has to compromise. I'm sorry everybody's not happy.

    "I'm glad that something was done. I respect and appreciate the hard work Anthony Papa did. I'm sorry he's upset with me."

    17/12/2004 17:34

    Def Jam Founder Accused

    December 18, 2004, 9:12:04

      SIMMONS ATTACKED OVER DRUG LAW

    DEF JAM founder RUSSELL SIMMONS has been branded a "nightmare" who "destroyed" attempts to get the Rockefeller Drug Law penalties repealed, by the man who led the movement.

    Governor NELSON ROCKEFELLER passed the controversial laws in 1973 and 1974, which means many low-level drug dealers like ANTHONY PAPA, co-founder of MOTHERS OF THE NEW YORK DISAPPEARED, are given longer jail sentences than rapists or murderers.

    Papa enlisted Simmons' help in campaigning against the laws and is devastated the rap mogul attended a bill-signing ceremony on Tuesday (14DEC04)

    and called the small penalty reductions "a giant step forward", website PAGESIX.COM reports.

     

    Papa complains, "Now people like Simmons are patting themselves on their backs along with the governor and the Assembly Speaker SHELDON SILVER.

    "I should have dogged him but I figured he would help us. Instead, he was a nightmare and destroyed the movement."

    Simmons counters, "In my experience as a businessman, a good deal usually means everybody has to compromise. I'm sorry everybody's not happy.

    "I'm glad that something was done. I respect and appreciate the hard work Anthony Papa did. I'm sorry he's upset with me

     

     

    The Nation

    article | Posted December 9, 2004

    Talking With Anthony Papa
    by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow
     

     n 1985 a bowling partner asked Anthony Papa if he'd deliver an envelope containing a small amount of cocaine in exchange for $500. Papa agreed--and was subsequently arrested as part of a police sting operation.

     

    For his first-time, nonviolent offense, thanks to the Rockefeller drug laws, he was sentenced to fifteen years to life. In prison at Sing Sing, Papa studied art and began creating paintings that embodied the despair and isolation of prison life. In 1994 his self-portrait was displayed at the Whitney Museum. Parlaying his artistic success into publicity for his case, Papa was granted clemency by Governor George Pataki in 1997 after serving twelve years.

     

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     Now, he is using his art to publicize the injustice of the drug laws that put him away. He has campaigned tirelessly on behalf of their repeal, collaborating with other activists such as hip-hop artist Russell Simmons and co-founding Mothers of the New York Disappeared, a group of prisoners' family members.

     

    Just this week, new legislation was agreed on in Albany that would modify certain provisions of the Rockefeller laws for the first time. The legislation, which Governor Pataki says he will sign, reduces minimum sentences for some first-time offenses and increases the amount of narcotics necessary to qualify possession as a serious felony. It also allows inmates already serving time for these offenses to apply for a reduced sentence. But most anti-Rockefeller advocates consider these changes far from sufficient, and fear they could temper demands for more fundamental reform.

    Aside from his legal work and activism, Papa also recently published a memoir, 15 to Life, telling the story of how he painted his way out of prison. He spoke recently with The Nation in New York.

    Q: In your book you mention that you had almost spiritual experiences in your cell. In prison you also pursued your education and discovered your passion for art. Would you say that prison served a beneficial purpose for you?

    It was a positive experience in regard to the changes. Besides my gift of art, I also discovered my political awareness. Prison is a very spiritual place. There's something mystical about spending time in a 6-by-9 cage for fifteen years. You discover who you are.

    Q: But you seem to be an exception. How would you describe prison's effect on most inmates' consciousness?

    If you're serving a sentence of fifteen years in prison, eventually, you're going to fall to the negative aspects of imprisonment, unless you find vehicles to transcend the experience, like I did through my art. The way the system is set up now, rehabilitation is not even considered anymore. People can change their lives if you have restorative programs available. Prisons should be resocialization centers. But they're not. They're designed to dehumanize.

    Q: When you were incarcerated, there were more of these rehabilitative programs than there are now.

    They took away college education in 1995. State and federal funding were eliminated. Society went toward the strictly punitive mode of justice. The type of justice that sleeps in the shadows of life itself--lock-'em-up, throw-the-key-away type of mentality--doesn't think of the future of the incarcerated individual, the same individual who eventually has to return and interact with society.

    Q: Governor Pataki granted you clemency after you'd served twelve years. Is it awkward for you to participate in a campaign that's so critical of him?

    I thank the Governor for giving me my freedom, but he's an expert in dancing around the issue. His office knows about my book. I don't have a problem with it, and I hope he doesn't. For three years in a row, the Assembly and the Senate wanted to change the laws, but for three years they've been bickering on what changes to make. Meanwhile, people are wasting away in prison. My job is to keep pushing the issue, keep it in the news, and keep the Governor informed that I will not give up until these laws are changed.

    Q: Do you think he regrets giving you clemency?

    I think he definitely regrets it.

    Q: What is the organization you co-founded, Mothers of the New York Disappeared, doing to raise consciousness about the issue?

    Family members of the incarcerated work with us to bring the message to the Governor. When we go up to Albany with our group, these women--mothers in wheelchairs, canes, dying of cancer--they [the politicians] cringe. They're like, please. Every time we go there, they're afraid of the photo ops. I got the idea for the group from the Argentine mothers of the disappeared. They fought for over twenty-seven years against the government that murdered their children. Maybe I'm not dealing with 30,000 deaths, like what occurred in Argentina, but there are tens of thousands of people who disappear, who are socially dead, when they go to prison.

    Q: The new reform deal does address some of the harshest consequences of the laws, but it's certainly not the repeal you've been advocating.

    I applaud the change giving prisoners who have already served long sentences an opportunity to be reunited with their families. But the proposed changes are watered-down reform.

    Q: What do you find most lacking in the reform?

    It will not change the power structure of the Rockefeller drug laws, which is controlled by the district attorneys. Right now, the prosecutor controls the case from its beginning. And prosecutors live and die by their rates of conviction. Judges should have discretion. In my case, my judge didn't want to sentence me to fifteen to life, but he had to because of the law. Without judicial discretion incorporated, this is a feeble attempt by the legislature to satisfy activists who have fought for repeal. I vow never to stop fighting until we get true repeal and help the many, many other prisoners who will be left behind in this whirlwind of false celebration.

    Q: In the book you say that when you got out, it was extremely disorienting at first, after having been in prison for twelve years. Have those feelings lingered?

    Only when I dream. Now, I'm out seven years. What I felt when I got out should have been bottled. Everything had a Zen-like feeling, and life was just amazing. I floated when I walked. But I've been out now for seven years, so I've kind of settled down.

    Q: Do you have any messages for the prisoners you met while you were doing time, who are still there?

    I would say, don't give up hope. Seven years ago I was sitting in a cell, and today I got my book published, soon to be made into a major motion picture. I sold the film rights to the book already. It's going to Hollywood--another Traffic. We're going to get this issue out.

    Q: Whom do you want to play you?

    First it was Al Pacino, but now he's too old. Tom Cruise, but he's too short. I don't know...he's got to be a young, sexy-looking guy.

     

     

    October 21, 2004 -- THE Rockefeller Drug Laws will be repealed if Anthony Papa can reach enough people. Papa, who had a radio repair business in The Bronx and a young daughter, did 12 years in Sing Sing after one of his bowling teammates asked him in 1985 if he wanted to make $500 delivering an envelope. It turned out the package was cocaine. Papa wrote "15 To Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom," about becoming an artist while in prison. He co-founded Mothers of the N.Y. Disappeared in 1998 to bring attention to the unfairness of the 1973 laws which send low-level drug dealers to jail for longer sentences than rapists or murderers. On Monday night, after an opening of his show at the Whitney, Papa was feted at the Waldorf Towers by hedge fund wizard Lawrence Goldfarb and such guests as Andrew Cuomo, art dealer Donald Rosenfeld, Vanity Fair writer Frank DiGiacomo and groom-to-be Al Reynolds, looking rellaxed as his Nov. 13 wedding to Star Jones approaches.

     

    ELLIS HENICAN   NEWSDAY

    Portrait of the artist as free man
    Oct 24, 2004

    It took a while, a whole lot longer than it should have. But Tony Papa finally got to see his painting hanging where it belonged.

    Thirty-five miles and 16 years from the prison cell where he painted it. Displayed in a gallery at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

    This wasn't the first time that Papa's self-portrait, which he titled "15 to Life," was shown at the Whitney. But the last time Papa wasn't able to make the museum show. He was otherwise detained, serving an absurdly long prison term at the Ossining Correctional Facility on a nonviolent drug conviction under the state's harsh Rockefeller laws.

    "That portrait changed so much for me," Papa said. "I was sitting in my cell, three years into my sentence. I picked up a mirror. I looked in the mirror. In the mirror I saw an individual who was gonna spend the most productive years of his life in a six-by-nine-foot cage. Then I went to the canvas, and I captured that look."

    The picture Papa painted was foreboding and dark, acrylic paint on an 18-by-24-inch canvas. He was holding a paintbrush. His fingers were spread. His hands were resting on his head. His right eye was in a shadow. His left eye was wide open, staring ahead.

    "I created this painting, and seven years later an angelic letter arrived from the Whitney Museum, asking me to put a piece of my work in an upcoming show," he said. "From that point on, I knew that was the key to my freedom. If I could show my work at the Whitney, I could paint myself free."

    It wasn't quite that easy, of course. People inside and outside the prison admired Papa's talent and recognized the injustice of these counterproductive laws. Various friends interceded on his behalf.

    And in that roundabout fashion, Papa's confidence in the power of his art was ultimately borne out.

    The painting was shown, him still at Sing Sing. The story got some media play. That generated a second look at the drug conviction and his long prison term. Finally, in 1997, Gov. George Pataki signed the executive-clemency order that set Papa free. For a single cocaine sale, his first conviction, he'd served 12 years of his 15-to-life.

    "I really did paint my way out of prison," he said.

    He never gave up on the broader cause. He has spent the past seven years working to change the law that locked him up. He co-founded a group the New York Mothers of the Disappeared, organizing relatives of Rockefeller-law inmates, trying to push Pataki to expand his one-man clemency into a more sensible drug plan.

    It's slow going, but the signs of hope are real. Again this year, Papa and his drug-reform allies will take their case to Albany.

    He's written a book about it, being published next month by Feral House, "15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom" by Anthony Papa with Jennifer Wynn. There's a Web site, www.15tolife.com, and the story's already been optioned for Hollywood.

    But Tony Papa had one piece of unfinished business. He had never been able to see his portrait on the museum wall.

    So the other night, there was a party at the Whitney to celebrate the new book. Hors d'oeuvres were passed. Wine was served. Mario Cuomo turned up. So did most major players in the drug-reform movement. Several of Papa's paintings, including the famous self-portrait, were hanging in a beautifully lit space on the gallery wall.

    People kept saying what an inspiration Tony Papa is.

    "Tony is the human face of these inhumane laws," said Andrew Cuomo, the former federal housing secretary who has been championing the drug-reform cause in New York. "Here is what a Rockefeller prisoner looks like. Here is his art. He was locked in a cage for 12 years. Was he really such a threat to us?"

    Miele Rockefeller, the granddaughter of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, for whom the laws were named, was there to support Papa. "The Rockefeller laws should be renamed the Pataki laws," she said. "My grandfather would have changed them by now, and George Pataki won't."

    After the museum show, the group retired to an after-party in the Waldorf Towers apartment of hedge-fund director Lawrence Goldfarb, a Republican. Wealthy Wall Streeters mixed with freshly released ex-prisoners. It was about as far as you could get from Sing Sing.

    "I'm a Republican businessman," said Goldfarb, whose company is called Baystar Capital. "In dollars and cents and in social devastation, these laws make no sense at all."

    All evening long, Papa, who is 49 now, looked humbled but also energized. "So many people are reaching out with love," he said. "They're walking up to me, crying, asking, 'What can I do?' "

    He had an answer for all of them. "Speak to your political leaders. Put pressure on the governor. We have to change these laws for everyone.

    "One person really can make a difference," he'd say each time. "Believe me. I know."

     

     
     

    Portrait Of a Free Man
    AlterNet, CA - Oct 27, 2004
    ... He's written a book about it, being published next month by Feral House, "15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom" by Anthony Papa with Jennifer Wynn. ...

    http://www.socialistworker.org/2004-2/522/522_09_AnthonyPapa.shtml

    Artist and activist Anthony Papa speaks out:
    “Art can be a weapon of the oppressed”

    December 3, 2004 | Page 9

    ANTHONY PAPA served 12 years of a 15-years-to-life sentence as a first-time, nonviolent felony drug offender under New York state’s Rockefeller Drug Laws (RDLs). In prison, he became an artist and a political activist. Since his release in 1997, Papa has fought tirelessly along with others to repeal New York’s draconian drug laws, cofounding the group Mothers of the New York Disappeared.

    Now, Feral House has published his book 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom. In October, the Whitney Museum of American Art held a party to launch the book. LUCY HERSCHEL spoke with Anthony.

     

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    THE SUBTITLE of your book is “How I Painted My Way to Freedom.” Can you explain how that happened?

    I WAS sentenced to 15-to-life in maximum-security prison in Ossining, N.Y. I was lost. I really didn’t know how I was going to survive, until one day I discovered my talent as an artist. My discovery of my art was life saving, it maintained my humanity, my self-esteem, it gave me meaning in my life and helped me transcend the negativity of the prison environment.

    Sing Sing was a cesspool. Parts of the prison were like the old Times Square--you could buy any type of weapon, TV sets, any form of contraband, drugs. There were more drugs in Sing Sing than in the streets.

    The point I like to make is, if you can’t control drugs in a maximum-security prison, how can you control drugs in a free society?

    More importantly, my art helped me discover my political awareness--who I was in society. I discovered the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera and Picasso’s “Guernica”--those were my influences where I saw that art could be used as a weapon of the oppressed against the oppressor. I began painting social statements against the death penalty and the prison-industrial complex.

    One of my pieces, “Corporate Asset,” portrays the prison-industrial complex before the term was even coined. It shows how the family unit is taken away from the home, the prisoner becomes food for the machine--the systematic dehumanization of the prisoner who becomes a nameless statistic going through the revolving doors of justice on the road to recidivism, only to be plucked in again at any time by the system.

    It’s a visual narrative of important social concepts. For me, the greatest asset of an artist is using art as a social commentary.

    WERE YOU ever afraid that the political message in your work would hurt your chances at clemency?

    ACTUALLY, MANY times I debated this. While my clemency petition was pending, my counselor came to me and told me to slow down. Although he personally agreed with what I was doing, he thought I was jeopardizing my chances at freedom. Apparently, the warden had come to him and had wanted to withdraw the letter of support he had sent to the governor for me, because I was so outspoken.

    But I felt I had an obligation to speak out against the atrocity of imprisonment through my art.

    For example, I painted one series called “Contraband Search.” Coming back from a visit one day, I was put through a body cavity search three times, and I felt very dehumanized by it. I went to the library and I found policies and directives on how C.O.s are to conduct body cavity searches, and I was appalled by the 20 pages of directives describing the methods of all types of searches.

    So I painted a series of six-page paintings about this issue, and I tried to send them out--but the work was confiscated.

    I called my lawyer to say that I wanted to sue them because they took away my right to create--first they want me and now they want my mind. He said, “Look, slow down, don’t sue them, you have you clemency petition pending, and you’re going to hurt your chances at clemency. Handle it internally.”

    So I was forced to strip down the directives off the paintings. But when I went back to my cell I thought, “Now they have my mind.” So I made diagrams of where the directives were on the painting and sent the directives out separately in the mail.

    Later, I got a call that the deputy of security wanted to see me, and I thought, “Now I’m in trouble, they must have found the directives in the mail. I just blew my shot for freedom.” Instead, he told me that he just got off the phone with the governor, and he said, “You’re free.” I just broke down crying. That was an amazing experience.

    So even though I did jeopardize my freedom, I thought it was my duty and my obligation. Because I had this vehicle, I became a kind of cause celebre, and a lot of people wanted to come in the prison and interview me. I used my art as a vehicle to talk out against the system.

    I thank Governor Pataki for my clemency, but I have become an activist against him and his stance on Rockefeller reform, which is nonexistent. Three years ago, for the first time in 28 years, the governor openly came out and spoke against the drug laws. Then the Senate and State Assembly leaders also came out.

    So you have all three top dogs of New York State government wanting to change the laws, but for three years, they’ve just argued about what changes to make. So throughout all this political rhetoric, people are still wasting away in prison. I will continue to use my art to fight the governor to compel him to change these laws.

    SO IF the top three legislators all agree, why hasn’t there been reform?

    BECAUSE OF the prison-industrial complex--money raised at local, state and federal levels through the business of the prison. Since 1982, 33 prisons have been built in up-state, rural Republican territories. It’s about the dollar. That’s why people are still in prison, that’s why these laws have not changed. That coupled with the disfunctionality of the legislative process in Albany.

    The “war on drugs” is a war on people itself and primarily people of color. It’s about controlling a certain population. If you look at New York State, 75 percent of the 19,000 people who are locked up under these laws come from seven inner-city neighborhoods. So this is about institutionalized racism.

    It’s very hard to change the system when it’s run by politics that are dictated by personal gain. All politicians are thinking about is their own political careers. They don’t care about people locked up in prison; they don’t care about anything else.

    YOU TOLD me about a new district attorney who, with the support of activists, won a big upset victory in Albany by running strictly on an anti-Rockefeller Drug Law platform, beating out an incumbent who was a strong supporter of these laws. How do you think he won?

    MY GROUP, the Mothers of the New York Disappeared that I cofounded in 1998 through the William Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, laid the foundation by going to Albany dozens of times, meeting with officials, protesting in the street and getting tremendous publicity up in Albany, so the people in Albany were educated about the draconian nature of the RDLs.

    They saw it was a waste of tax money, of human life, money that could be better spent on needy communities, to feed the homeless, put shoes on shoeless children.

    When I came out in 1997, I went to Albany with different groups to lobby politicians, and I saw that I was wasting my time trying to change the laws from the top down. All these politicians had dual opinions about the laws. The public opinion was: “We support these laws. They work.” But behind closed doors, they said would say, “Look, I know these laws don’t work, they cost a lot of money, but I can’t look soft on crime because I don’t want to loose my job.”

    From that point, I said to myself, “We aren’t going to win it up here. We’re going to have to develop a plan to work it from the bottom up.”

    That’s why I started the Mothers of the New York Disappeared. We actually changed public opinion by taking the issue to the street and putting a human face on it. We formed the group based on the Argentine mothers. They fought the military when they overtook the government in the 1970s and ’80s. Some 30,000 people were murdered--they disappeared. They held candlelight vigils and the Plaza de Mayo, and got a lot of public sympathy and public pressure from around the world to seek justice.

    We met May 8, 1998, the 25-year anniversary of the RDLs, right across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and we staged our first rally, and all the New York press was there. We saw that this was how we were going to change these laws--by getting the press involved and reaching the masses with these human interest stories.

    And from a small, dedicated group of maybe 25 people, in five years, we changed the face of the war on drugs and how it was fought in New York. What we did is we took to the grassroot street level. Now that model has expanded to other groups that hold rallies now across the country.

    WHERE DO you think the fight against the Rockefeller Drug Laws should go from here?

    WE NEED to continue to put pressure on the governor, and we need to do it in a variety of ways. I had a meeting with Larry Fisher, LL Cool J’s former manager, who runs an organization called Hip Hop for Youth, about going to Albany in January during Pataki’s State of the State address and having an event with different rappers.

    The governor’s proposed legislation is watered-down reform. It’s a slap in the face to activists and to the people in prison.

    In 2002, Pataki pushed through the Senate a reform bill that would have affected some of the loved ones we were advocating for. The next day, the governor met with the Mother of the New York Disappeared and said, “If you support us, your loved ones will be free.”

    So that was hanging like the carrot dangling on a string. And we actually rejected it, and it was hard for a lot of mothers--some of these women are disabled, in wheelchairs, dying of cancer, their loved ones stuck in prison.

    But we thought about the whole group. Instead of letting a few hundred people out, we want to build a movement to save thousands and thousands and thousands of lives in the long run.

    AFTER THE election, Bush is claiming a mandate for all this policies, including the “war on terror.” Do you see a connection between the “war on drugs” and Bush’s “war on terror”--the locking up of immigrants, Guantánamo Bay and the prison scandals in Iraq?

    IF YOU go to Times Square, they have a Drug Enforcement Administration exhibit, “Drug Traffickers, Terrorists and You,” in which they are basically saying, “If you smoke a joint, you’re supporting the terrorists.” It’s total propaganda.

    Drug users today are demonized--they’re treated today as Communists were during the McCarthy era, the same way groups of people suspected of terrorism are treated today. This goes with the whole philosophy of controlling certain populations of people with propaganda.

    I don’t think Bush has a mandate, I think he stole the election again. But that won’t effect my fighting against the war on drugs. I will continue to create ways to fight the government around these draconian laws that lock up certain disenfranchised or marginalized populations in the U.S.

    For more information about Anthony’s artwork, his book or the fight against the Rockefeller Drug Laws, visit his Web site at www.15yearstolife.com.

     


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    Inside the Sing-Sing Prison [85031-1] : C-SPAN
    Papa, Anthony - Inmate. Sessions, Jeff (R-AL) - US Senator ... Any other use
    requires a license and permission from C-SPAN. ...
     

    Rights and Wrongs: War on Drugs and Human Rights, 28:30
    Globalvision, 1997
    Hosted by Charleyne Hunter-Gault, Rights and Wrongs is a weekly television program dedicated to exposing human rights abuses around the
    world. This episode focuses on the criminalization of youth and other abuses perpetrated in the name of anit-drug policies.

     

    Court TV: Catherine Crier Live

     

    RNN :  Topic /  New`York Drug Laws Racist And Cruel

     

     

    CNBC : Charles Grodin Show

     

     

    Court TV : Inside Cell Block F debating America's Toughest Sheriff

    YouTube - America's Toughest Sheriff gets a Smack Down
     

    America's toughest sheriff Gerald Hege who has his prisoners ...
    Watch video - 54 sec - Rated 5.0 out of 5.0
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=yH5G659vETs

     

     

     

     

    MAY 8TH ON DEMOCRACY NOW WITH HOST AMY GOODMAN WBAI.99.5

    Democracy Now! is a national, listener-sponsored public radio and TV show, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the country. We air Monday-Friday on over 120 stations including Pacifica radio stations, Pacifica affiliates, WBIX.org, public access TV stations, Free Speech TV (DishNetwork Channel 9415)