15 To Life

PHOTO CREDIT WASHINGTON POST
-09/30/06-- Martin Luther King Memorial Library, 901 G Street NW, District of Columbia--PHOTOGRAPHER-MARVIN JOSEPH/TWP--CAPTION-Prisoner and victim advocates, as well as others gather to talk about rehabilitation of prisoners through the use of art at the Taste of Justice Fair. PICTURD, Folks attend an exhibition of prisoners art work including Anthony Papa, a prominent ex-prisoner and author of the book 15 to Life.

 

Endorsements for "15 To Life" : How I Painted My Way To Freedom    

"Anthony Papa has written a riveting account of how he courageously painted his way to freedom from prison after unnecessarily serving twelve years.  His story puts a human face on the nearly one million nonviolent drug offenders confined in prisons throughout the country" --Susan Sarandon  -Actor/Activist

"A powerful memoir of one man's struggle for freedom, 15 To Life tells in vivid prose the story of Anthony Papa, a painter and a casualty of the War on Drugs. This journey of a soul shows the power of art to transcend the violence of prison, and all that is possible when the human spirit refuses to be contained. Papa's account should be required reading for New York lawmakers and all Americans who care about civil liberties."
--Sister Helen Prejean - Author of Dead Man Walking 

 "Papa's story gives me the chills.  He's been through so much you won't believe it 'till you read it."  Jack Black -Actor (School of Rock)

"Anthony Papa's "15 To Life" tells of a heroic escape from a brutal system by a man who refused to give up.  A thrilling, unforgettable read!  -- Tim Robbins  - Actor (Mystic River)

"Anthony Papa's "15 To Life" is a must read for the hip-hop community.  Over 94% of the 17,000 people locked up under New York's drug laws, the harshest drug laws  in the country, are black or Hispanic.  Like Papa, I am trying to end these racist laws.  We need your voice.  You can start by reading this book  -- Russell Simmons  - Chairman Hip-Hop Summit Action Network"

" "Papa is a true American hero whose ingenuity and never say die attiude conquered frightful  adversity " -- Jason Flom -President Atlantic/Lava Records

"Anthony Papa's "15 To Life" is a gripping story of justice gone wrong and an inspiring tale of personal triumph.  It is a scathing indictment of the antiquated Rockefeller drug laws that have imprisoned thousands of nonviolent offenders and wasted billions of dollars of taxpayer money" --Former US HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo--author of Crossroads

"There have been a lot of books over the years about men in prison, but Anthony Papa's "15 To Life" is unique.  This is a wrenching, compelling, and darkly ironic story of a man discovering his artistic soul behind bars and using his talent to gain his freedom.  It will provoke you, it might enrage you, and it could even inspire you.  But it won't easily let you forget it."   Peter Blauner --Best selling Author of the Intruder and The Last Good Day      

 "The Rockefeller Drug Laws must change and Papa's "15 To Life" is a good reason why!"  -- Frank Serpico  Legionary Former NYC Police Officer 

"15 To Life"  is an unbelievable story about one man's journey through a living  hell and how he survived and now is fighting to change the most racist drug laws in America. Read this book - learn something! -- Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis  -  Actor/Activist

 

 

Overview of  "15 To Life"

Anthony Papa was a typical individual that sought the American Dream, Instead he found the American tragedy of the drug war.  He had a wife and child and worked hard to makes ends meet. Frustrated with his situation he fell prey to a quick scheme to make some fast money. After meeting a drug dealer at the bowling alley he frequented, he was asked to deliver an envelope containing 4 and one half ounces of cocaine. At first he refused, but after a while his desperate state overtook his better senses. He agreed, and walked into an undercover drug sting. His one mistake was compounded into a living nightmare. Everything that could go wrong, did.

In 1985, he was found guilty and sentenced to two 15 year to life sentences  under New York State's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. Papa was then sent to Sing Sing prison where the best years of his life would be lost in one of the most dangerous prisons in America. Faced with violence and a self-defeating environment he struggled to survive. Papa did this through his discovery of art. It was through his painting that he transcended the negativity of imprisonment and found meaning in his life.  His art would also eventually set him free.

During Papa's time in prison he created a body of art work that captures the prison experience..  He acquired 3 college degrees, including a Masters Degree from New York Theological Seminary.  After 10 years, Papa had exhausted all of his legal remedies. His quest for freedom seemed gone. However, by a one in a million chance, his self portrait titled "15 Years to Life" was  chosen to be exhibited at the Mike Kelley restrospective at the  prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.  This was not without a struggle. After Kelley selected his painting, the curator Elisabeth Sussman, then informed the prison about the jarring stipulation that the artist chosen must be a convicted murderer.  This was because of the intellectual context of  "Pay for Your Pleasure"  the art installation it would be centerpiece for.    A confrontation occurred when the prison administration would not allow Papa to participate. The Whitney had given Papa an avenue to regain his only chance left for freedom.  He then used the survival skills he had honed in prison to convince the administration to allow him to participate in the show thus generating  tremendous publicity to his case.

In 1997, after 12 years Anthony painted his way out of prison when Governor George Pataki granted him executive clemency. When released Papa continued to bring his message of  reform to the public by exhibiting his art  and  appearing on National  shows.  Tired of politicians afraid of getting involved  for fear of losing their jobs,  Papa  formed the "Mothers of the New York Disappeared", a group of ex-prisoners and  family members of those incarcerated under the Rockefeller Drug Laws.   In  5 years through street level protests, which generated tremendous publicity, the group managed to change the face of the war on drugs in New York bringing to the public the human element of the drug war.

In many ways Anthony Papa's case is typical of the first time non violent offender being incarcerated for many years because of the war on drugs. Because of New York's obsolete drug laws, its prisons confine over 18,000 drug offenders, the vast majority being low-level criminals. It costs tax payers over $715 million a year to imprison these offenders. Over 94% of them are people of color. Before he died, Cardinal John O'Connor joined New York's Roman Catholic Bishops and the Mothers of the NY Disappeared that called on the governor and state legislature to overhaul mandatory laws, urging for a more humane and effective system. This eventually convinced Governor George Pataki, the Senate and the Assembly to call for change of the Rockefeller Drug Laws in 2001. However, at this time in September  of  2004 no reform has taken place because of the shame of politics.  The governor, assembly and senate have blamed each other for not cooperating  while human beings are rotting away in prison.

These laws have served as a model for other states to follow resulting in federal mandatory minimum laws for drug offenses that have filled prisons with over 1 million non violent offenders costing taxpayers at least 22 billion dollars a year. The war on drugs has generated a grate debate by many, including political leaders, judges, and clergy. The urgent need for change in the way society deals with the drug problem is shown by the words and wisdom of former U.S. National Drug Czar, General Barry McCaffrey, who had been nationally responsible to fix the drug problem in all facets for years until he resigned from his position because of the administrations reliance on a strictly punitive approach. He has stated, in part: "It is clear that we cannot arrest our way out of the problem of chronic drug abuse and drug driven crime. We cannot continue to apply policies and programs that do not deal with the root causes of substance abuse and attendant crime". He has also stated that, Mandatory sentencing ties the hands of judges too tightly and prevents them from exercising discretion and good judgement.

The war on drugs has also fueled the prison industrial complex. Revenue raised from the business of imprisonment. For example, New York State now spends more money locking up criminals than educating students at its public universities. According to a report released by the Correctional Association more than $761 million has been added to New York's prison budget over the last decade, while spending for higher education has been cut by $615 million. Today, New York spends $275 million more to run prisons than state and city colleges.

15 TO LIFE will attempt to break down the barriers that prevent the public from understanding the prison experience by putting a human face on it through one man's struggle for freedom. Anthony Papa might have gone to prison an ordinary man with little insight on the politics involved with his imprisonment. However, he has emerged with a vision born from its deprivation and now has become an icon for sentencing reform against the laws that once held him captive. Sharing his story through all formats of media, lecturing at Universities such as Columbia and Harvard he continues to educate the public about prison and the war on drugs. His is a story of inspiration of the human spirit that creates a common path that anyone could follow in transcending a negative experience.

How it Began…

   In 1985, Anthony Papa owned a radio repair business in the Bronx. He had a young daughter and bowled in a league in Yonkers. When one of his teammates asked if he wanted to make a quick $500 by delivering an envelope, Papa agreed. That single mistake cost him twelve years in Sing Sing, a maximum-security prison for 2,300 convicts on the banks of the Hudson River.

    Although Papa had never been in trouble with the law, he was sentenced under New York’s draconian Rockefeller drug laws that mandate a 15-year-to-life sentence for selling two or possessing more than four ounces of  a controlled substance. Since their enactment in 1973, the Rockefeller drug laws have helped to quintuple New York’s prison population.

     When Papa entered Sing Sing, one of the most dangerous prisons in America, he left behind his wife (who divorced him several years later) and a 6 year old daughter. He spent his first year consumed by loneliness, regret and anger. An education supervisor at Sing Sing vividly remembers Papa’s emotional state, which he describes as a daze. "He was lost; he didn’t know what was going on. Luckily, he discovered art, and it just grabbed him," he said.

    Papa painted to combat boredom and maintain his humanity in the harsh world of prison. He began painting impressionistic landscapes and views of the Hudson River, which he could see from the small window of his concrete cell. Papa’s passion was stirred when he discovered the works of Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera and saw that art could be used to convey ideas and political statements. He began to paint obsessively, sometimes at night by the moonlight that spilled into his six-by-nine-foot cell. Undeterred by restrictions on most painting materials, he improvised by using cooking oil to clean his brushes, toilet paper for texture, and cardboard as a palette knife.

    Art inspired Papa to fight for justice, both personal and political. Papa’s breakthrough came in 1994, when his self-portrait, 15 Years to Life, was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in Manhattan. Showing a stupefied Papa holding his balding head and a paintbrush in his hands, the painting produced a burst of publicity that generated public sympathy for the imprisoned artist. Ultimately, it caught the attention of Governor George Pataki.

    Shortly after the Whitney exhibit, journalist Anthony Lewis wrote the following about Papa in The New York Times:

    There is a human element that gets lost in all the political rhetoric about toughness on crime. It was brought home to me the other day by a letter to the editor from a prison inmate in New York State, Anthony Papa.

    "I’m a first-time offender in my tenth year of a 15-year-to-life sentence for passing an envelope containing 4 ½ ounces of cocaine," Mr. Papa wrote. "Since incarceration I have gotten two college degrees and am attending graduate school at New York Theological Seminary…I made a mistake when I was young. I needed a wake-up call, not to be thrown into a cage for 15 years."

    New York prisons are full of men and women who are now fully rehabilitated, Mr. Papa said. He urged that their sentences be shortened as part of the Pataki program. But his letter implicitly carried a larger message: that we should be moving away from such a waste of public resources and human lives.

    December 23, 1996-A guard told Papa to leave the prison yard and report to the office of the First Deputy Superintendent. Papa assumed the worst: several days before, guards had confiscated his political paintings and charged him with possession of contraband. He was expecting a disciplinary ticket, maybe a week in solitary, but certainly not the smile on the Deputy Superintendent’s face when Papa walked into his office. "I just got off the phone with the governor," the Deputy Superintendent began. When he said the magic word-clemency-Papa fell against the wall and cried.

 

 

FOR BOOK INFO  Feral House  at 1-800-967-7885  or    -  Anthony Papa -  tpapa@drugpolicy.org     646-420-7290 

 

WHITNEY MUSEUM BOOK RELEASE PARTY  OCTOBER 18 , 2004

 

 

Tony Jr. Tony Papa Andrew Cuomo-

 

Dear Friend of HELP USA, We are very pleased to report that the HELP Justice Center book event for Anthony Papa on Monday night was a huge success! Over 275 people joined Tony at the Whitney Museum to celebrate the publication of his new book, 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom. Tony's powerful memoir exposes the injustice of New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws. These draconian laws require strict mandatory minimum sentences, 15 years to life, for low level, non-violent drug offenders. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that the laws are unjust, discriminatory, and a waste of tax dollars. However, all efforts to change the laws have failed. HELP's Justice Center will continue to advocate for change. We wanted to share Attorney General Elliot Spitzer's message congratulating Tony on his new book and commending HELP and the Justice Center on its efforts to help those in need. Please read his greetings below. If you want to learn more about our advocacy or Tony's book, please let us know. HELP USA HELP USA 5 Hanover Square, 17th Floor New York, NY 10004 212-400-7010 www.helpusa.org * * * * * October 18, 2004 H.E.L.P. USA's Justice Center 5 Hanover Square New York, NY 10004

 

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ATTORNEY GENERAL ELIOT SPITZER WITH ARGENTINA MADRES

 

Eliot Spitzer Attorney General

 

 Dear Friends: I am delighted to have this opportunity to join with everyone who has gathered here tonight to herald the release of Anthony Papa's powerful new memoir 15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom. This very personal and tragic story, like those of so many other non-violent offenders languishing in our prisons on relatively minor drug offenses, illustrates the impact that our Rockefeller Drug Laws have had on a generation of New Yorkers. I applaud Mr. Papa's courage in speaking out and sharing his ordeal with the world. In doing so, he joins the very large chorus of voices calling for reform of this injustice. Let me also take a moment to commend H.E.L.P. USA, not only for hosting this special celebration, but also for their ongoing efforts to assist those in need. In less than two short decades, this exceptional program, founded by Andrew Cuomo, has grown to become the nation's largest provider of transitional housing for homeless families. An innovator in promoting community development, job training, affordable housing, substance abuse treatment and services for victims of domestic violence, H.E.L.P. fosters self reliance, independence and productiveness. With the opening of its new Justice Center, H.E.L.P. USA has expanded its mission to confront the underlying problems facing poor communities. From discrimination in education, employment and the criminal justice system, to fair housing, environmental justice and immigration law, it is a tireless advocate for equality and fairness. I wish the Center much continued success. Once again, congratulations to Mr. Papa on the publication of his new book and best wishes to everyone celebrating this momentus event.

 Sincerely, Eliot Spitzer Attorney General

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


PRESS RELEASE

The release of 15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom by Anthony Papa with Jennifer Wynn, published by Feral House, will be celebrated at the Whitney Museum of American Art (945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street, New York) in October . The primary sponsor of the party is HELP USA, founded by Andrew Cuomo, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Among the participants of the 15 to Life release party are Andrew M. Cuomo, Lawrence R. Goldfarb, Peter Greer, Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry, Senate Minority Leader David A. Paterson, Jason Flom, Charles Grodin, Russell Simmons, Dan Cantor, Bertha Lewis, and Maria Cuomo Cole.


Media for further information regarding the Whitney Museum party, please contact Ashley Cotton at (212) 705-5042

Media for further information regarding the Feral House book, please contact Faustine Haarman at (323) 666-3311

 

 

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 APPEARANCES FOR ANTHONY PAPA

ON THE 15 TO LIFE  BOOK  TOUR

 

Saturday, October 2, 2004

2004 Northeast Regional Conference SSDP

LOCKED UP: Drugs, Prisons & Privilege

Columbia University, NY 116th Street  

11:00AM- 5:00PM 5th Floor, Lerner Hall

BOOK TALK

 

Sunday October 3rd at 9 - 10pm

Street Soldier
WQHT-NY Hot 97
Hosted By Liza Evers

INTERVIEW


 

Thursday October 7th at 7 - 8 pm

Stepping Up
WVOX-NY  1460am
Hosted by Yasmeen Nijah

INTERVIEW

 

 

Saturday,  October 9, 12:00 noon

WBAI RADIO  99.5  FM

  Al (Grandpa) Lewis Live

INTERVIEW

 

Wednesday,  October 13,  7:30

City College of New YorkThe City College of New York
138th Street & Convent Avenue
New York, NY 10031

Campaign To End The Death Penalty (CEDP)

Call (212) Lee at 387 -0611 or nyc@nodeathpenalty.org for more information

BOOK TALK

 

Friday, October 15  6 PM 

Join Anthony Papa at Food for Thought Books,

Amherst's employee-owned  bookstore, for the first reading of "15 to Life."

106 N. Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA >> 6 PM >>

Tel: 413-253-5432 Fax: 413-256-8329 info@foodforthoughtbooks.com 

BOOK TALK 

 

 

MONDAY , OCTOBER 18TH  6-8pm

WHITNEY MUSEUM BOOK RELEASE PARTY

AND ART EXHIBIT

945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street

 

 

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19TH  5PM

RNN LIVE (REGIONAL NETWORK NEWS)

RICHARD FRENCH

INTERVIEW

 

 

 

 

WED,  OCTOBER 20  4:30 -6:30

PACE UNIVERSITY

1 Pace Plaza
New York, NY 10038
call Zena  for info:  718-473-6976
Automated Telephone Directions: (212) 346-1133

BOOK TALK

 

 

SUNDAY, OCTOBER  24, 2004  / CHANNEL 11

WB11 - WPIX  NEWS CLOSE-UP WITH

MARVIN SCOTT 

6:30 AM

INTERVIEW

 

 

 

WED. OCTOBER 27, 2004

530 PM

CATHERIN CRIER LIVE

COURT TV

 

Sentence Too Harsh?
Tony Papa was sentenced to 15 years in prison after his first drug offense, a deal worth $500, because of New York state's Rockefeller drug laws. Papa says art kept him going until his pardon by Governor George Pataki. 
  Play interview

 

 

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29TH  8PM

Art & Politics: Anthony Papa book talk / Film: The Fog of War (2003)

 8PMART EXHIBIT, PERFORMANCE, FILM Jersey City Artists Studio Tour 2004 at 

Grace Church Van Vorst, 39 Erie Street, Jersey City, NJ 07302

BOOK TALK

 

DAVID ROTHENBERG SHOW

WBAI RADIO  99.5

8:30 am  October 30, 2004

INTERVIEW  wbai.org

 

 

Democracy Now  www.democracynow.org

Pacifica Radio   270 STATIONS NATIONWIDE

9:30 AM November 8th 2004

99.5 FM

Interview (LISTEN)

 

 

7:30 AM TUESDAY NOVEMBER 16TH

THE MORNING SHOW

WBAI RADIO  99.5

INTERVIEW     wbai.org

 

 

 

"UNFILTERED"

AIR AMERICA  39 STATIONS NATIONWIDE

11:00 AM TUESDAY  NOVEMBER 16TH 2004

INTERVIEW   

www.airamericaradio.org     Listen here.

 

 

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 16TH 2004

5PM   WWRL   1600  AM   RADIO

SAM  GREENFIELD SHOW

INTERVIEW

 

 

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 16TH  2OO4 7:30 PM, EDT,

6:30 CDT 5:30 MDT & 4:30 PDT

"CULTURAL BAGGAGE"

Pacifica Radio: KPFT, Houston, 90.1 FM

 (LISTEN)11/16/04 Anthony Papa  RAM MP3 Script

INTERVIEW

AudioPort.Org - Program Information
... This weeks show features Anthony Papa, author of 15 Years to Life and Sanho Tree
of the Institute for Policy Studies. author Anthony Papa, Sanho Tree. ...
www.audioport.org/ index.php?op=program-info&program_id=711&nav=& - 18k - Cached - Similar pages

 

 

WED  NOVEMBER 17TH  2004  1:20  PM

"THE REAL WORLD"    104.8  FM  www.rem.fm (LISTEN)

STEPHEN RITSON HOST  Broadcasting on 104.8 fm to the Costa del Sol 

 SOTHERN SPAIN and to the world on the Internet...WED  NOVEMBER 17TH  2004  1:20  PM

 

 

 

TUESDAY  NOVEMEBER  22, 2004

FRED DICKER SHOW  10:20  AM

LIVE INSIDE THE STATE CAPITAL

WROW  590  AM RADIO  ALBANY NY

INTERVIEW

 

 

DECEMBER 2, 2004  8:30AM

THE MORNING BULLETIN

WITH TOMMY B

NEWS RADIO  970  AM

BILLINGS , MT

 

December 4, 2004   12pm

 

 

"   The Bradley Quick Experience"….
radio talk show Live every Saturday Night 11pm till 1am on KRLA 870AM in Los Angeles or Listen worldwide on the Internet at    

 

Interview   listen here:   http://bradleyquick.com/radioshows/128.html

 

 

 

December 8, 2004

WRPI   91.5 FM TROY NY,  www.WRPI.org.   

"Voices from the Prison Action Network" . www.hm.indymedia.org.

INTERVIEW 7:55 AM

 

 

 

The Blackwash Televised Art Gallery
Channel 70 Sat. 8:00pm

December 11, 2004

Bronx Net  Channel 67

Interview /  2 part / Next Part

December  18,  2004

(718)960-1180  FOR MORE INFO or ellisarts@aol.com

 

 

Starting December 22, 2004

RADIO NATION INTERVIEW

http://www.nationinstitute.org/radionation/stations.mhtml

Click on the above for time and dates of the taped interview with Anthony Papa

DESCRIPTION: RadioNation has established itself as one of the most provocative and informative shows on the air. A project of the non-profit Nation Institute, RadioNation is hosted by Nation contributing editor and longtime radio personality Marc Cooper. A weekly feast of news and opinion from some of America's brightest writers, thinkers and activists. RadioNation can be heard on public stations across the country and over the Internet via Real Audio technology.

 

January 8, 2004

www.criminaljusticeforum.com
 Saturdays at 12:05pm EST
 1340 AM in Clearwater; 1350 & 1400 AM in New Tampa
listen at www.tantalk1340.com or
http://www.criminaljusticeforum.com/15tolife.htm

Interview

 

 

 

Book Signing

 

Feb. 10 at 6pm,
Hue-Man Bookstore and Café, 2319 Frederick Douglass Blvd.

 between 124thand 125th Streets. Tel: 212 665 7400, www.huemanbookstore.com.

 NYC D.A. Bob Morganthau Involved in Heated Race for District Attorney of NY County  Joins Artist/Activist Anthony Papa at Harlem Book Store for his Book Signing of Rockefeller Drug Laws Memoir

 

Feb  07, 2004

For Immediate Release                                                        For Anthony Papa Contact

                                                                                                    917 –754- 1008

For Bob Morgenthau  Contact

Julie Nadel 917-6928315

 

 D.A. Bob Morgenthau Involved in Heated Race for District Attorney of NY County  Joins Artist/Activist Anthony Papa at Harlem Book Store for his Book Signing of Rockefeller Drug Laws Memoir

On February 10,  2005  at 6pm Anthony Papa author of  15 to Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom is scheduled to do a book/talk at Hue-Man Book Store.  He is joined by D.A. Bob Morganthau who is involved in a heated race against former NY judge Leslie Crocker Synder.  The subject matter of the book is the Rockefeller Drug Laws which will be a central issue in the race for NY County D.A.  Morganthau has stood firm in his position on the laws seeking  fair and equitable reform in the laws.  Synder on the other had has flip flopped on the issue.  Now, as a candidate she suddenly supports reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.  Anthony Papa who has debated her on two television shows states “Synder is a hypocrite. In the past, she has gleefully boasted about supporting  98% of the Rockefeller Drug Laws.  The same laws that incarcerate 94% black and Latinos.  If elected Synder would be a disaster for inner city communities like Harlem N.Y.  The last D.A that heavily supported these laws is now unemployed. “ 

Papa a first time non-violent offender who served 12 years of a 15 to life sentence was granted clemency by Governor Pataki .  Since his release he has been fighting to repeal the Rockefeller Drug Laws.  “The recent watered down reform is not acceptable and my new book is a clarion call for meaningful reform” says Papa .  Also present will be Senator David Patterson ,  Senator Eric Schneiderman ,  Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, Judge Jerome Marks and Justice Works, a advocacy group,   to address the issue to the Harlem community.  Special entertainment by political comedian Randy Credico reading as George Bush .

   LOCATION:   Hue Man Books  at 2319  Federick Douglas Blvd between 124th & 125th Street in NYC . For bookstore info:  212 – 665-7400

 

Feb. 12   2005.  11:30 am

Lecture / book talk  multimedia presentation
 The Schomburg Center Junior Scholars Program in Harlem NY 

 

 

 

Feb. 22, 2005  

Herald.com | 02/20/2005 | Festival opens Keys Chamber Orchestra season
... 15 to Life: Art Behind Bars announces an event to celebrate the publication
of Anthony Papa's memoir, 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom. ...
www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/ news/columnists/nancy_butler_ross/10948001.htm - 36k - Cached - Similar pages

 

 

 

 

March 29th 2005    15 to Life  Presentation

 Cheim & Read Gallery / 547  West 25th NYC  6-9 PM 

Fund Raiser For Drug Policy Alliance  with  leading Contempory artists

Contact 212-966-4710

 

 

 

April 5th 2005 Multi Media Presentation  "15 To Life" 

  Princeton University , N.J.

Students for Sensible Drug Police

4:30 pm  contact Reona Kumagai for more info  ssdp@princeton.edu

 

The Daily Princetonian - Students bring  Anthony Papa to ...
... Artist and former prison inmate Anthony Papa spent 12 years in prison for
passing 4.5 oz. of cocaine in 1984. Addressing a small group of Princeton ...
www.dailyprincetonian.com/ archives/2005/04/06/news/12570.shtml - 29k - Cached - Similar pages

 

 

 

 

April 7th 2005  Multi Media Presentation  "15 To Life"

Vassar College, NY

contact Harley Stokes for info  hastokes@vassar.edu

 

vassar student association
... ANTHONY PAPA. Thu, April 7 -- 7 PM -- Villard Room. Formerly incarcerated
artist and current drug war reform activist, Anthony Papa will be visiting ...
vsa.vassar.edu/ - 9k - 23 Apr 2005 - Cached - Similar pages

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEWS

November 7, 2005

http://weblogs.freespeech.org/chrisc/?p=1   

15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom

Filed under: Book Reviews — chrisc @ 11:10 am
15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom
Anthony Papa, 2004
Feral House
Hardcover, 215 pages
ISBN: 1-932595-06-6
$22.95

15 years to Life” is a phrase tremoring with emotion. Unfortunately it was a phrase passed too often and too easily through the lips of many courtroom prosecutors and judges as the minimum mandatory sentence mandated by New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. Though these laws faced very minor reforms last year (reducing some sentences to 8 to 20 years), they remained for 31 years as the unforgiving and unforgivable standard rule of sentencing for nonviolent offenders of the politically ballyhooed “war on drugs.” Of course the Rockefeller laws have not offered New York any definite expedience in confronting “drug problems”. Drug kingpins are still able to take advantage of the plights of the destitute, letting them risk the jail time for passing envelopes of narcotics while staying far from the action of the street. As a result, despite the fact that most hard-drug users are white, the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network and the American Civil Liberties Union conclude that over 94% of the 17,000 Rockefeller-incarcerated individuals are Latino or Black. It is a cruel, racist strategy for enslaving people in the prison industrial complex while ensuring a citizenry that the drug trade stems from a criminal element and not from a more sophisticated sociological despair.

Anthony Papa only took one risk to find the $500 he needed to pay rent so his family could live. Like being asked to do some landscaping for a friend, Papa was to deliver four and one half ounces of coke for some quick money and quick resolution to his financial crisis. The deal was a setup to break the fall of a dealer higher up in the hierarchy of the drug market and Papa endured the mandatory 15 year minimum in court. Thereafter Papa lived an ordinary story of acclimation to prison life as a first-time offender, as well as an extraordinary story of discovery of latent talent, and a strategic engagement of that talent to pursue his freedom. Through the pages we see the scant resources prisoners have for advocating for their freedom. We see those scant resources exhausted as Papa becomes a jailhouse lawyer creating appeals that are manhandled to his misfortune by outsider law firms. In the end, as the title suggests, it is the resource of art that prevails. Both as an occupation that allowed Papa to transcend his despair in the cell and the afflictions of civil bureaucracy. Papa wins his freedom through playing the ooh’s and ah’s of the art world and its media following. His builds his campaign for clemency from governor George Pataki on the moral/aesthetic arguments that only his art is allowed to communicate. And ‘moral argument’ ought not be confused with plastic sympathy. It is no puppy dog stare from a pet store window. Papa’s story is a milieu of competitiveness and resigned cooperation with an inhuman system of power. Papa is forced to wile and trick a system to gain an advantage that should be afforded to him on the basis of human rights. Papa competes against many characters: lawyers, judges, dealers, other inmates, COs, high society artists and critics. And the prize of this competition is not the fame associated with hanging portraits in galleries. That is just the means to the real finish line: the freedom those on the outside all readily take for granted. Papa literally paints for his life; it may well be the reason he paints (”I knew that participating in the show [at New York’s Whitney Art Museum] was the break I had been waiting for. As I re-read the lines, they blurred into a single word: FREEDOM.”).

So art, the aesthetic realm all too often valued as transcendent of the hard truths of life, finds a very practical cause. Art’s power is used for a very focused and determinate end: to sow a campaign for public opinion. Papa’s sentence at Sing Sing faces the opposite direction Oscar Wilde experienced during his stay at Reading Gaol. Whereas Wilde was an aesthete whose genius was eroded by the toil of his imprisonment, Papa finds his genius because of the toil, because the normal argumentative paths to pursuing freedom (court appeals) in maximum security prisons ultimately don’t exist in his favor. While Wilde may view art as those things that are unnecessary, Papa makes art (and maybe more precisely the outside world’s mass-mediated appreciation of art) the absolutely necessary path to his campaign for clemency and his freedom.

15 to Life reveals the conflicts and cooperation between the artist’s brush, jailhouse-law study, and numerous letters from legal bureaucracy. Papa struggles through them all, playing them with and against each other in hopes that he can freely reclaim his humanity. It leaves a lot of questions for the reader such as “What happens to the inmates who don’t have talent or technique to entice the sympathy of the free world, what about the rest of them?” Fortunately, Papa doesn’t take his freedom and run. As co-founder of the Mothers of the New York Disappeared he uses his clout as a cultural and moral sensation to campaign for the rights of those he left behind the gates of Sing Sing. Papa leaves the story of 15 to Life with a strong and quickening gaze toward liberation for the Rockefeller incarcerated.

Papa’s memoir will be easy and important reading for those who want to figure art as a politicizing and strategic resource for creating real change for social justice. It will inform the reader not only about Papa’s artistic process but also the political process he must engage to make his art work for social change and his freedom. This process includes mobilizing audiences, critics, press, and other locations of power toward an ethic or political good. Papa’s art is great and can stand alone as a form of beauty. However, “How I Painted My Way to Freedom” is a complex subtitle and ought not conjure an image of the paintbrush as a mystical key to the cellblock latch. Papa’s story does not let one underestimate the amount of work and struggle Papa needed to endure to direct his art toward political resolution.

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

 

    September/October  2005 Issue 

http://www.thehumanist.org/humanist/SeptOct05.html

Up the River
by Anthony Papa with Jennifer Wynn
An artist and ex-convict tells some of his experiences in the violent, loud, and notorious Sing Sing prison.
 

 

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

Fifteen Years to Life
By Anthony Papa with Jennifer Wynn    
    July 27, 2005                                                             

Feral House, $25                                     
 

Now You See It                                                                                                            
Why even talk about pictures?     
By Anneli Rufus  

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/Issues/2005-07-27/culture/books.html


Published: Wednesday, July 27, 2005

 

...Such second-guessing is funny and frightening. But sometimes art does have an agenda. It got Anthony Papa out of jail. In Fifteen Years to Life, Papa -- writing from the first-person point of view, though his memoir has a coauthor -- recounts how as a hard-luck young husband and father, he let a guy in a bowling alley talk him into delivering four ounces of cocaine for $500, got caught, and thanks to New York's draconian drug laws drew the titular sentence in Sing Sing. There, amid quotidian brutalities described in a blockish style that sometimes trips over its own urgency, this first-time offender contemplated suicide, hankering as the years crawled past after "something to get out of bed for in the morning." One day, an armed robber introduced him to watercolors. Never having painted before, Papa was transformed, spending his days at the prison studio, mixing colors while squinting through a small window at the Hudson: "Despite the coils of razor wire obstructing the view, the expansiveness of the river was awesome. ... Painting became my obsession."

Some of his works won prison art shows and were exhibited in the Whitney Gallery, spawning a flood of articles such as a New York Times full-pager about the inmate whose "reality is a canvas of rage and sorrow." Papa's talent for milking the press arguably outspans his painterly skills, but who could blame him? He knew which journalists to cultivate. He knew which well-wishers to enlist in his campaign for clemency. And he knew what to paint -- electric chairs, desperate hands, caged figures: "I knew that somehow it would help me get out." Twelve years into his sentence, it did. The fact that galleries then started rejecting him -- telling Papa his work was "too scattered or it didn't match the style of the other artists they represented" -- reveals a stark double standard: As a jailed painter, Papa was a novelty to be marveled at, not unlike some apt primate in a zoo. Freedom sheared off that polemical panache.

 

 

 

July 19  2005

http://chrisconner.blog.com/264218/#cmts

"15 to Life" by Anthony Papa

15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom
Anthony Papa, 2004
Feral House
Hardcover, 215 pages
ISBN: 1-932595-06-6
$22.95

“15 years to Life” is a phrase tremoring with emotion.  Unfortunately it was a
phrase passed too often and too easily through the lips of many courtroom
prosecutors and judges as the minimum mandatory sentence mandated by New York’s
Rockefeller Drug Laws.  Though these laws faced very minor reforms last year
(reducing some sentences to 8 to 20 years), they remained for 31 years as the
unforgiving and unforgivable standard rule of sentencing for nonviolent
offenders of the politically ballyhooed “war on drugs.”

Of course the Rockefeller laws have not offered New York any definite expedience
in confronting “drug problems”.  Drug kingpins are still able to take advantage
of the plights of the destitute, letting them risk the jail time for passing
envelopes of narcotics while staying far from the action of the street.  As a
result, despite the fact that most hard-drug users are white, the Hip-Hop
Summit Action Network and the American Civil Liberties Union conclude that over
94% of the 17,000 Rockefeller-incarcerated individuals are Latino or Black.  It
is a cruel, racist strategy for enslaving people in the prison industrial
complex while ensuring a citizenry that the drug trade stems from a criminal
element and not from a more sophisticated sociological despair.

Anthony Papa only took one risk to find the $500 he needed to pay rent so his
family could live.  Like being asked to do some landscaping for a friend, Papa
was to deliver four and one half ounces of coke for some quick money and quick
resolution to his financial crisis.  The deal was a setup to break the fall of
a dealer higher up in the hierarchy of the drug market and Papa endured the
mandatory 15 year minimum in court.  Thereafter Papa lived an ordinary story of
acclimation to prison life as a first-time offender, as well as an extraordinary
story of discovery of latent talent, and a strategic engagement of that talent
to pursue his freedom.  Through the pages we see the scant resources prisoners
have for advocating for their freedom.  We see those scant resources exhausted
as Papa becomes a jailhouse lawyer creating appeals that are manhandled to his
misfortune by outsider law firms.  In the end, as the title suggests, it is the
resource of art that prevails.  Both as an occupation that allowed Papa to
transcend his despair in the cell and the afflictions of civil bureaucracy.
Papa wins his freedom through playing the ooh’s and ah’s of the art world and
its media following.  His builds his campaign for clemency from then governor
George Pataki on the moral/aesthetic arguments that only his art is allowed to
communicate.  And ‘moral argument’ ought not be confused with plastic sympathy.
 It is no puppy dog stare from a pet store window.

Papa’s story is a milieu of competitiveness and resigned cooperation with an
inhuman system of power.  Papa is forced to wile and trick a system to gain an
advantage that should be afforded to him on the basis of human rights.  Papa
competes against many characters: lawyers, judges, dealers, other inmates,
CO’s, high society artists and critics.  And the prize of this competition is
not the fame associated with hanging portraits in galleries.  That is just the
means to the real finish line: the freedom those on the outside all readily
take for granted.  Papa literally paints for his life; it may well be the
reason he paints (“I knew that participating in the show [at New York’s Whitney
Art Museum] was the break I had been waiting for.  As I re-read the lines, they
blurred into a single word: FREEDOM.”).

So art, the aesthetic realm all too often valued as transcendent of the hard
truths of life, finds a very practical cause.  Art’s power is used for a very
focused and determinate end: to sow a campaign for public opinion.  Papa’s
sentence at Sing Sing faces the opposite direction Oscar Wilde experienced
during his stay at Reading Gaol.  Whereas Wilde was an aesthete whose genius
was eroded by the toil of his imprisonment, Papa finds his genius because of
the toil, because the normal argumentative paths to pursuing freedom (court
appeals) in maximum security prisons ultimately don’t exist in his favor.
While Wilde may view art as those things that are unnecessary, Papa makes art
(and maybe more precisely the outside world’s mass-mediated appreciation of
art) the absolutely necessary path to his campaign for clemency and his
freedom.

15 to Life reveals the conflicts and cooperation between the artist’s brush,
jailhouse-law study, and numerous letters from legal bureaucracy.   Papa
struggles through them all, playing them with and against each other in hopes
that he can freely reclaim his humanity.  It leaves a lot of questions for the
reader such as “What happens to the inmates who don’t have talent or technique
to entice the sympathy of the free world, what about the rest of them?”
Fortunately, Papa doesn’t take his freedom and run.  As co-founder of the
Mothers of the New York Disappeared he uses his clout as a cultural and moral
sensation to campaign for the rights of those he left behind the gates of Sing
Sing.  Papa leaves the story of 15 to Life with a strong and quickening gaze
toward liberation for the Rockefeller incarcerated.

Papa’s memoir will be easy and important reading for those who want to figure
art as a politicizing and strategic resource for creating real change for
social justice.  It will inform the reader not only about Papa’s artistic
process but also the political process he must engage to make his art work for
social change and his freedom.  This process includes mobilizing audiences,
critics, press, and other locations of power toward an ethic or political good.
 Papa’s art is great and can stand alone as a form of beauty.  However, “How I
Painted My Way to Freedom” is a complex subtitle and ought not conjure an image
of the paintbrush as a mystical key to the cellblock latch.  Papa’s story does
not let one underestimate the amount of work and struggle Papa needed to endure
to direct his art toward political resolution.

 
Posted by marvelousbobchestnut

 

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

Publishers Weekly Book Review  November 22, 2004


This tension-filled memoir by a prisoner turned activist and artist may seem familiar after Jennifer Gonnerman's NBA-nominated Life on the Outside, but unlike Gonnerman, Papa describes excessive imprisonment under harsh drug laws with the grim certainty of firsthand experience. In 1984, he rashly agreed, for $500, to deliver a package containing four and a half ounces of cocaine for a gambling acquaintance. It turned out to be a sting, and Papa was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life. Although at first suffused with melodramatic regret, the account becomes leaner when Papa arrives at Sing Sing and describes the hazards and absurdities of the notoriously crowded, grimy prison. He found spiritual release from despair and violence through educational programs on painting, writing and law. Papa's public stature rose after a painting of his was exhibited at the Whitney Museum, and after numerous travails threatened his health and sanity, he was granted executive clemency after 12 years behind bars. Papa has since been active with the group Mothers of the Disappeared and the movement to repeal the overly harsh Rockefeller drug laws; his paintings combine surrealist overtones with hard-edged subjects often derived from the prison-industrial complex, and they reflect the material of his book memorably.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

 

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

 

Spain, Madrid published in Costa Blanca News 11 February 2005

 

 

 

F.E.D.S  Magazine  /  Volume 3 Issue 15

 

 

http://www.impactpress.com/missing55.html

Feb .2005  Issue

 Impact Press Book Reviews:
by Craig Mazer, Kari Lydersen
"15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom"; "A Poverty of Reason: Sustainable Development and Economic Growth"

 

 

http://www.hightimes.com/ht/home/index.php?page=toc&PHPSESSID=a39cabc983aa9d3295b63c52307fa4ce

High Times Magazine  Book Review APRIL 2005  by Valerie Pan Da Pan
 Anthony Papa's 15 to Life

 

 

http://www.maximumrocknroll.com/mainpage/index.html

MAXIMUMROCKNROLL #262 • MARCH 2005  Book Review by Trent A Reinsmith

In 1985, Anthony Papa was a 29-year-old small business owner living in the Bronx with his wife and young daughter. Bills were mounting, rent was due and tensions were rising in his marriage when a gambling acquaintance stepped up and offered him a quick $500 to deliver a package. Papa had doubts and misgivings, but he accepted the proposal. The package Papa carried was full of cocaine and he delivered it directly into the hands of undercover cops. To make matters worse, this particular event came with an added twist; namely New York's Rockefeller drug laws, which mandate a 15-year-to-life sentence for the weight of the drugs Anthony had delivered.

15 to Life details how Papa transformed himself while in prison, from a convicted drug courier into an artist and later into an activist. The first 80+ pages cover his dealings with a shady lawyer, codefendants turning on him and his initiation into the jail system. Papa reinforces that what you see in the movies about prison life is not far from reality. Sex, violence, drugs, deals made and deals broken all take place on a regular basis behind the prison walls.

15 to Life takes a turn from prison narrative to survival tale when Papa realizes that he is going to serve a good deal of his sentence. Papa finds his inspiration to not give up when he sees a prisoner painting in his cell and becomes mesmerized by the act. A short while later, emerging from a three-day lockdown Papa has an epiphany as he looks around his cell. He considers the ten paintings he has completed and sees his freedom on the canvas. At this point Papa becomes committed to his art, realizing it is the only way he can survive prison.

While Papa works on his art he starts to realize that his lawyer is not doing much to help him. While in the library studying his case, a prisoner tells him about the law that has sentenced him to 15 years to life. The Rockefeller drug laws state that a judge must impose a minimum sentence of 15 years to life to anyone convicted of selling two ounces or possessing four ounces of a controlled substance. Kingpin or first time bust, everyone receives the same minimum sentence. Papa now had another focus besides his art, his case and more specifically, the law that put him behind bars.

Papa gets a break in September of 1993 when the Whitney Museum contacted Sing Sing about a show they would be putting together. The Whitney was looking for art by a murderer for their show. Papa saw an opportunity and pursued it, telling The Whitney that he was a convicted killer. In his mind the lie would expose his are and hopefully get him closer to freedom.

After the Whitney show Papa received his first press exposure, an in depth piece in the Gannett Suburban Newspaper. An article in Prison Life magazine followed, then a NY Times letter to the editor penned by Papa in regard to the Rockefeller drug laws. Later, an Associated Press story that is printed in six New York newspapers follows. Papa welcomes the press; the prison does not and reassigns him to a harsher area of the prison.

Papa later learns of an opportunity to join a Master's Degree Program from the New York Theological Seminary. While he is enrolled in the Master's Program Papa starts the ball rolling on his plea for clemency from Governor George Pataki. Papa details his attempts at clemency and his joy at finally receiving the news that it had been granted.

After his release Papa tells of his days outside of prison. His major focus is on the group he co-founds, Mothers of the New York Disappeared, named for the mothers and relatives who have had family members disappear behind prison walls. The group is focused on repealing the Rockefeller Drug Laws. The efforts of the group have helped change public opinion on the law, however the public and the government that represents them are not on the same page and the laws remain unchanged.

 

 

Thick Online  BookReview

http://www.thickonline.com/reviews/index.php/mod-rev,pid-440

15 Years To Life is not the criminal adventure story you may be used to. No high flying lifestyle/self-aggrandizements. Anthony Papa's true story of incarceration, and intellectual and spiritual growth, is about a non-violent criminal jailed for 15 years under New Yorks’ notorious minimum sentencing Rockefeller Laws*. The narrative starts a bit slowly, but by the time fast-talking sham artist lawyers are concocting fake alibis, it's worth the token for the ride. Graphic details of jail life through an artists eyes are stunning, "Times Square was the Sodom and Gomorrah of Sing-Sing," and “The cells around Times Square were like booths in an outdoor market. From behind their curtain draped cells convict craftsmen sold materials such as handbags, leather-work and belts.” The description of the constant struggle of surviving the twin dangers of random violence from the fellow convicts, and psychological harassment from the guards creates a tension in the work that gives you a taste on the toothpick of jail experience. Painting, jail-house lawyering, and appealing his conviction all drive the book’s theme of trying not to be institutionalized by the system. Vivid, yet also politically focused throughout, 15 Years To Life gives an honest representation of the strife of an individual within the tall walls of misfortune. Complemented by a few of the authors paintings in the center of the book, and constant references to the important friendships developed in jail, 15 Years To Life is an effusively effective portrayal of Anthony Papa's path to freedom.

* This novel is even more important now in ‘05 when snakes like Russell Simmons, who yacht with the Rothschild family, accept the Rockefeller Laws' token reformations as a jump-off to a political career.
 

 


NEW YORK PRESS  NOVEMBER 24 2004

http://www.nypress.com/17/47/books/kenmondschein.cfm

 

15 TO LIFE: HOW I PAINTED MY WAY TO FREEDOM
Anthony Papa with Jennifer Wynn

By Ken Mondschein

FERAL HOUSE, 223 PAGES, $22.95

IF YOU'RE LIKE me and about 500,000 other New Yorkers, you did your bit for democracy, freedom and liberal bragging rights this past August by marching down 5th Ave.. Or daring fate, taxi cabs and the police you blocked traffic with Critical Mass. Maybe you even found yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time and were detained for a day and a half in a bus terminal, trying to massage the feeling back in your plastic-handcuff-numbed hands while the motor oil on the floor burned through your sneakers and you pondered how much you'd rather have some decent Chinese takeout instead of a piece of bologna between two slices of stale white bread.

Bearing in mind how much fun it is to spend 36 hours enjoying the hospitality of the NYPD, imagine spending 12 years in a maximum-security prison.

In 1985, Anthony Papa was living in the Bronx, self-employed as an electronics repairman and struggling to keep a roof over his family's heads when a bowling buddy talked him into making a quick $500. All he had to do was come along for a car ride and deliver an envelope containing four and a half ounces of cocaine to Westchester. Instead of getting his rent money, Tony wound up walking right into a police sting.

Ratted out by his supposed co-conspirators, painted by ambitious DAs as a drug lord hell-bent on turning Ivy League-bound suburban teenagers into raving crackheads, and swindled by greedy, incompetent lawyers who make fortunes by dangling false hope in front of desperate people, Tony, a first-time, nonviolent offender, was sentenced under New York State's Rockefeller drug laws to 15 years to life in prison.

15 to Life is Anthony Papa's account of his arrest, trial, imprisonment and fight for both his freedom and his sanity. For being duped into passing the equivalent of a Glad sandwich bag half-full of processed alkaloids derived from a common South American plant, Tony not only lost his wife and his six-year-old daughter, but he discovered some new things about himself—such as what it's like to be robbed of one's dignity, identity and, finally, humanity by a brutal system that exists only to perpetuate itself. He also found out what it feels like to spend more than a decade without a woman's touch, and that even a nonviolent offender would rather bash a guy's skull in with a tuna can wrapped in a gym sock than be raped.

He also learned to paint.

Some experiences can either destroy people or bring out the finest in them; prison seems to be one of them. The scholar Boethius was rotting in a medieval dungeon waiting for the Ostrogothic king Theodoric to sign his death warrant when he composed the Consolation of Philosophy, one of the most beautiful works of Christian theology ever written. Cervantes began Don Quixote while in debtor's prison. Dostoyevsky wrote The House of the Dead and Crime and Punishment after spending four years in Siberia. Antonio Gramsci wrote his diaries while locked up by Italian Fascists. Gandhi was in and out of British prisons most of his life. The list goes on.

Papa isn't as elegant a prose stylist as his comrades listed above (15 to Life is co-written with Jennifer Wynn, author of Inside Rikers: Stories from the World's Largest Penal Colony), but he has an astounding visual imagination. Exposed to the political work of Picasso and Diego Rivera through a prison-art program, Papa began working with whatever materials he could get his hands on—acrylics, bedsheets, toilet paper—and produced startling images of prison life. His big break came in 1993 when the Whitney Museum wrote to Sing Sing, seeking to borrow a piece of prison art by a convicted killer for the artist Mike Kelley's exhibition Pay for Your Pleasure. His appeals exhausted and seeing no other way out, Tony told the museum that he was a double murderer and submitted a piece to Kelley's show. Then he played the publicity for all it was worth. When his burgeoning art career began attracting public notice, including a few write-ups in the New York Times, Gov. Pataki granted him clemency in 1996.

15 to Life is more than an insider's view of New York's prison archipelago. It's also a powerful statement against a war on drugs. It's the Rockefeller drug laws, not the dealers and junkies, that are the real villains in Papa's story. Instituted in 1973 by then-governor Nelson Rockefeller, who wanted to build a "tough on crime" image as part of an aborted run for the presidency, the laws dictate 15 years as the minimum possible sentence a judge can give a person found in possession of four or more ounces of certain controlled substances. That is, of course, unless you can cop a plea bargain, which means that big-time dealers can get a reduced sentence by trading information, while guys like Tony Papa get screwed. (By way of comparison, Robert Chambers had a minimum term of five years for killing Jennifer Levin; Joel Steinberg a minimum of eight for killing his daughter Lisa.)

The New York State prison system is currently home to more than 17,000 nonviolent drug offenders: one-third of the state's inmate population. Ninety-three percent are black or Latino. Keeping these people locked up costs the public more than half a billion dollars a year. But since no politician wants to seem soft on crime, neither Gov. Pataki nor the State Assembly has given any sign of willingness to change the laws, and so our prisons continue to fill with people who need treatment instead of punishment, people who, unless we keep them locked up until they die, will one day be dumped back into society having learned nothing except how to victimize the weak and kowtow to the strong. Anthony Papa's testament makes a strong case that it's long past time we opened the cell doors.

 

 

DRCNet Book Review: "15 To Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom," by Tony Papa with Jennifer Wynn Feral House Press, $22.95 HB) 10/22/04
http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/359/15tolife.shtml

Some 17,000 people -- the vast majority black or Latino -- are currently serving decades-long mandatory minimum prison sentences in New York state, the legacy of liberal Republican Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's pioneering effort to suppress drug use by imposing draconian penalties on even low-level drug offenders. When the governor pushed through what are now known as the Rockefeller drug laws -- how's that for a legacy? -- in the early 1970s, he began the push toward mandatory minimum sentencing that swept the country in the years since then. Gov. Rockefeller deserves a large share of the credit, if that is the right word, for beginning the trend that has resulted in the United States -- the land of the free -- becoming the most imprisonment-happy country in the world.

Anthony Papa (http://www.15yearstolife.com) is one of the victims of the Rockefeller drug laws. As a young married working man in New York City, Papa knew nothing of the severe penalties awaiting those who violated the Rockefeller laws. Short on money after a string of losses gambling on bowling, Papa agreed to deliver a package for one of his bowling alley buddies. It was supposed to have been an easy $500; instead, it was the beginning of Papa's extended sojourn in the Dante-esque world of the New York criminal justice and correctional system.

Papa was sentenced to the standard 15-years-to-life and pulled many long years at Sing Sing, one of the most famous, if not the most notorious, of the prisons in the Empire State's ever-growing gulag. But through the development of an artistic talent he never knew he possessed before going in, Papa eventually won a measure of fame, and he was able to parlay that into clemency from Gov. George Pataki. Papa walked out of prison in January 1997, and since then he has been deeply involved in trying to repeal the laws that nearly stole his life and that have kept thousands of others of nonviolent drug offenders locked up for year after year after year.

"15 To Life" is the story of Papa's journey to hell, his desperate fight to regain his freedom, and the continuing effort to repeal the Rockefeller laws and win justice for the thousands of drug offenders still rotting away inside Attica, Clinton, Sing Sing, and all those other places whose names are now synonymous with infamy. With assistance from Jennifer Wynn, Papa treats the reader to a horrible, gripping narrative account of his odyssey in the New York criminal justice system. (After finishing Papa's book, I feel a strong urge to never write that phrase without using quotation marks around the word "justice.")

Prisons have high walls not just to keep the prisoners in but also to keep public knowledge out. As Papa so eloquently reiterates, they are brutal places. They are filled with sadists, thugs, and thieves -- and that's just the guards. The administration of New York's prisons that Papa writes about can only be described as institutional sadism: The guards ominously slapping their batons as new prisoners arrive, the prison goon squads clad in riot gear who so bravely beat the crap out of inmates who dare to protest their mistreatment, and the less violent but equally crazy-making arbitrary infractions handed out by guards on a whim. And we have the nerve to wonder why people come out of prison worse than when they went in?

Sadism and savagery are not, of course, limited to the prison guards. By treating drug offenders as dangerous criminals worthy of decades-long prison sentences, New York in essence throws to the wolves thousands of nonviolent drug offenders. With those long sentences, they are sent to prisons like Attica and Sing Sing that are the home to truly hardened criminals. Clueless dopers become easy prey for the violent men who flourish in prison society. Papa himself relates at least two incidents where he was attacked by other prisoners, one mentally disturbed, the other just plain mean.

Tony Papa was able to paint his way out of prison, and much of "15 To Life" tells the story of how, thanks to inmate mentors, he discovered his talent and was able to produce images so harrowing and horrid that he was able to break through the walls of silence, make allies on the outside, and eventually win his freedom. But Papa was the exception; the governors of New York rarely grant clemency, and thousands upon thousands of other Tony Papas are rotting away behind the walls as you read these words. Since his release, Papa has been very active in the movement to win freedom for the rest.

The final chapters of "15 To Life" are the latest notes on a work in progress: the years-long effort to repeal the Rockefeller drug laws. Papa recounts his frustrations in dealing with politicians who acknowledge the cruelty, inhumanity, and uselessness of the Rockefeller laws, but refuse to change them because of political calculations, and his realization that it would only be with an uprising from the bottom that those laws would be changed. Now, in late 2004, the Rockefeller laws are still in place, but Papa has helped craft a movement that threatens to strike them down. The final chapters of "15 To Life" have yet to be written.

"15 To Life" is a searing indictment of the New York criminal justice system, and by extension the entire law enforcement approach to drug use in this country. But it is an indictment that reads like a page-turner of a novel. This harrowing, first-person account of crime and injustice, imprisonment and redemption, is a guaranteed eye-opener for anyone who wonders about whether our current approach to drugs is the correct one. And more broadly, it is a screaming indictment of a prison culture in this country that threatens to rob the soul of America. Read it. Read it and hope that we can find a better way. But read it and weep for the hundreds of thousands of Americans deprived of their liberty and locked up in brutality factories.

And read it and weep for all us. Thomas Jefferson once famously observed, "When I consider that God is just, I fear for my country." After reading "15 To Life," all I can say is, "Me, too."

 

http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:rnvk_KFw-1sJ:uruguay.indymedia.org/news /2004/10/29228.php+anthony+papa+15+to+life+how+i+painted+my+way+to+freedom&h l=en

5. Reseña de Libro de DRCNet: "15 To Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom”, de Tony Papa con Jennifer Wynn (Feral House Press, $22.95 HB)

http://espanol.stopthedrugwar.org/cronica/359/15tolife.shtml

 

Unas 17.000 personas – la vasta mayoría negra o Latina – están actualmente cumpliendo sentencias mínimas obligatorias de prisión de décadas de duración en el estado de Nueva York, el legado del esfuerzo pionero del Gob. Republicano Nelson Rockefeller para suprimir el uso de drogas al imponer penas draconianas aun contra los infractores pequeños de la legislación antidrogas. Cuando el gobernador hizo presión por lo que ahora son conocidas como las leyes Rockefeller sobre drogas - ¿qué tal eso como legado? – a principios de los años 70, él empezó el esfuerzo hacia el sentenciamiento mínimo obligatorio que barrió el país en los años desde entonces. El Gob. Rockefeller merece una gran parte del crédito, si eso es verdad, por empezar la tendencia que ha resultado en los Estados Unidos – la tierra de los libres – el volverse el país más feliz con el encarcelamiento en el mundo.
Anthony Papa (http://www.15yearstolife.com) es una de las víctimas de las leyes Rockefeller sobre drogas. Como joven trabajador casado en la Ciudad de Nueva York, Papa no sabía nada de esas penas severas que aguardaban aquellos que violaban las leyes Rockefeller. Con poco dinero después de una serie de pérdidas en el juego o en los bolos, Papa estuvo de acuerdo en entregar un paquete para uno de sus amigos de la bolera. Supuestamente, habrían sido fáciles $500; en vez de eso, fue el comienzo de estancia extendida de Papa en el mundo dantesco de la justicia criminal y del sistema correccional de Nueva York.
Papa fue condenado al padrón de-15-años-a-prisión-perpetua y cumplió muchos largos años en Sing Sing, uno de las más famosas, si no la más notoria, de las prisiones en el gulag siempre creciente del Empire State. Pero a través del desarrollo de un talento artístico que él nunca supo que poseía antes de ser preso, Papa ganó eventualmente una medida de fama, y él pudo transformar eso en clemencia del Gob. George Pataki. Papa salió de la prisión en Enero de 1997, y desde entonces él ha estado profundamente envuelto en intentar abrogar las leyes que casi le robaron su vida y que han mantenido a millares de otros infractores no-violentos de la legislación antidrogas enclaustrados durante años tras años tras años.
“15 To Life” es la historia de la jornada de Papa al infierno, su lucha desesperada para recobrar su libertad y el esfuerzo continuo para revocar las leyes Rockefeller y conseguir justicia para los millares de infractores por drogas que todavía se pudren dentro de Attica, Clinton, Sing Sing y todos aquellos otros lugares cuyos nombres ahora son sinónimos de infamia. Con la asistencia de Jennifer Wynn, Papa invita el lector a una narrativa horrible y emocionante de su odisea en el sistema de justicia criminal de Nueva York. (Después de terminar el libro de Papa, yo sentí una fuerte urgencia de nunca escribir esa frase sin usar comillas en torno de la palabra “justicia”.)
Las prisiones tienen altos muros no solo para mantener a los prisioneros adentro, pero también para mantener al conocimiento público afuera. Como Papa reitera tan elocuentemente, son lugares brutales. Están llenos de sadistas, brutos y ladrones – y esos son solo los guardias. La administración de las prisiones de Nueva York sobre la cual Papa escribe solo puede ser descrita como sadismo institucional: Los guardias siniestramente pegando sus porras mientras llegan nuevos prisioneros, los escuadrones de agentes de la prisión vestidos con ropas antidisturbios que tan bravamente dan una golpiza en los internos que se atreven a protestas contra su maltratos, y las infracciones arbitrarias menos violentas, pero igualmente alocadoras distribuidas por los guardias a gusto. ¿Y tenemos el coraje de imaginarnos por qué las personas salen de la prisión peor que cuando ellas entraron?
Sadismo y salvajería no están, claro, limitados a los agentes penitenciarios. Al tratar los infractores de la legislación antidrogas como criminales peligrosas que merecen sentencias de prisión de décadas de duración, Nueva York esencialmente tira a los lobos millares de infractores no-violentos por drogas. Con aquellas sentencias largas, ellos son enviados a prisiones como Attica y Sing Sing que son el hogar de criminales verdaderamente endurecidos. Usuarios perdidos se tornan presa fácil de los hombres violentos que florecen en la sociedad penitenciaria. El propio Papa relata por lo menos a dos incidentes en que él fue atacado por otros prisioneros, uno mentalmente perturbado, el otro simplemente malo.
Tony Papa pudo salir de la prisión a través de la pintura, y grande parte de “15 To Life” cuenta la historia de como, gracias a mentores presos, él descubrió a su talento y pudo producir imágenes tan angustiosas y horribles que pudo romper las paredes de silencio, hacer aliados en el lado de afuera, y eventualmente, conseguir su libertad. Pero Papa fue la excepción: los gobernadores de Nueva York raramente conceden clemencia y millares tras millares de otros Tony Papas están pudriéndose tras rejas mientras tu lees estas palabras. Desde su puesta en libertad, Papa ha sido muy activo en el movimiento para conseguir la libertad para el resto.
Los últimos capítulos de “15 To Life” son las últimas notas de un trabajo en progreso: el esfuerzo de años para abrogar las leyes Rockefeller sobre drogas. Papa recuenta sus frustracinoes al tratar con los políticos que reconocen la crueldad, la deshumanidad y la inutilidad de las leyes Rockefeller, pero se rehúsan a cambiarlas por causa de cálculos políticos, y su percepción de ello solo ocurrería con un levante desde abajo para que aquellas leyes fuesen cambiadas. Ahora, a fines de 2004, las leyes Rockefeller todavían están en su lugar, pero Papa ha ayudado a trazar un movimiento que amenaza derrumbarlas. Los capítulos finales de “15 To Life” todavía necesitan ser escritos.
“15 To Life” es una incriminación marcante del sistema de justicia criminal de Nueva York, y por extensión, de todo el abordaje del aparato judiciario-legal hacia el uso de drogas en este país. Pero es una incriminación que se parece con una novela. Este relato horripilante en primera persona del crimen y de la injusticia, del encarcelamiento y de la redención, es un abridor de ojos garantizado para cualquer persona que piense sobre si nuestro abordaje actual de las drogas es el correcto. Y más generalmente, es una incriminaci[no gritante de una cultura de prisión en este país que amenaza robar a la alma de Estados Unidos. Léelo. Léelo y espera que podamos encontrar un camino mejor. Pero léelo y llora por las centenas de millares de estadounidenses privados de sus libertades y enclaustrados en fábricas de brutalidad.
Y léelo y llora por nosotros. Thomas Jefferson observó famosamente, “Cuando yo considero que Dios es justo, temo por mi país”. Después de leer “15 To Life”, todo lo que yo puedo decir es, “Yo también”.