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Anthony Papa
Anthony Papa is an artist, writer, freedom fighter, noted advocate against the war on drugs and co-founder of the Mothers of the New York Disappeared. Mr. Papa’s stinging opinion pieces about the drug war have appeared in news sources across the country. He is a frequent public speaker and college lecturer on his art and criminal justice issues. Currently he is Manager of Media Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.

Mr. Papa is the author of An Open Letter to Men and Women Returning Home in the Age of Reform, his second memoir about his 17 years of freedom and 15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom (2004), a memoir about his experience of being sentenced to state prison for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense under New York’s draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. The book is optioned and set to become a feature film. Papa has appeared in film and TV such as "Breaking the Taboo", Lock Down USA and Sixty Spins Around the Sun and HBO's "OZ". He has been interviewed by a wide range of national print and broadcast media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, National Public Radio, “Democracy Now,” Court TV, “Extra,” C-Span, WPIX, RNN among others. His art has been exhibited widely from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York to many cultural centers and he has appeared on nationally syndicated talk shows such as “Charles Grodin,” “Geraldo Rivera,” and “Catherine Crier Live.”

Entries by Anthony Papa

DPA Drug Conference Art Installation Counters DEA Museum

(2) Comments | Posted November 25, 2015 | 5:12 PM

Last week I had the opportunity to exhibit my art installation "The Drug War" at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Over 1,500 people from around the country attended the event which featured panels and roundtable discussions on a...

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John Oliver Ridicules America's Plan for Prisoner Re-Entry

(1) Comments | Posted November 10, 2015 | 4:24 PM

Recently HBO's John Oliver did a terrific piece which exposed the reality of re-entry (re-entering society by prisoners) and pointed out that leaving prison can be just as bad as being in it. He said that America has set up prisoners to fail when re-entering the real world....

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President Obama 'Bans the Box' to Help Formerly Incarcerated Get Jobs

(6) Comments | Posted November 2, 2015 | 2:17 PM

President Obama continues to push for the reform of laws that hinder the re-entry of prisoners into the real world. The Huffington Post reports that on Monday he will announce a series of measures designed to reduce obstacles facing former prisoners reintegrating into society, including an executive order...

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Open Letter to Men and Women Returning Home in an Age of Reform

(1) Comments | Posted October 28, 2015 | 3:09 PM

In 1997 I was released from prison after serving 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for delivering an envelope containing four ounces of cocaine for $500.00 dollars. I walked into a policy sting operation where twenty cops came out of nowhere and I was arrested. I made every...

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Open Letter to the 6,000 Prisoners Coming Home

(10) Comments | Posted October 7, 2015 | 4:52 PM

For those 6,000 who will soon be released, I want to share with you my story of being released from prison when I received executive clemency after serving 12 years. I hope it will give you some insight on what to expect.

Being released from prison...

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6,000 People to Be Released From Federal Prison Following New Drug Sentencing Guidelines

(1) Comments | Posted October 6, 2015 | 5:44 PM

It was announced today that starting November 1, 6,000 federal prisoners are to be released from federal prison, an unprecedented move that is the result of changes made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year that lowered federal sentencing guidelines for people convicted under draconian drug war-era laws.

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New Exhibit: Art From U.S. Prisons

(0) Comments | Posted July 31, 2015 | 1:42 PM

A unique art exhibit is opening on August 1st on Governors Island that shows the art of imprisoned artists from around the U.S. The exhibit titled "Escaping Time: Art from U.S. Prison" is a production of the Safe Streets Arts Foundation, an organization whose goals are to rehabilitate...

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Gov. Bobby Jindal Denies Clemency to Prisoner Serving 13 Years for Possessing Two Joints

(326) Comments | Posted June 18, 2015 | 4:51 PM

Bernard Noble, an individual serving 13 years for possessing two marijuana joints applied for clemency and was recently denied. The reason behind the denial was he had not yet served 10 years in prison. As I said here before in the Huffington Post :

"Bernard's sentence...
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13 Years for Two Joints? Louisiana Gov. Jindal Needs to Correct Injustice With Clemency

(40) Comments | Posted December 15, 2014 | 12:34 PM

As a former prisoner who served 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for a nonviolent drug crime in New York, I know all too well the draconian nature of the war on drugs.

I was lucky enough to be granted executive clemency in 1997. Since my release...

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Exonerated Man Dies Days Before 124 Million Dollar Lawsuit

(1) Comments | Posted September 23, 2014 | 2:45 PM

William Lopez dreamt he would one day live the American Dream, despite the 23 years he spent in prison wrongly convicted of a murder he did not commit. His dream ended this weekend when he suddenly died from complications of an asthma attack. Imagine...

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New York Candidate for Governor Arrested for Videotaping Police

(108) Comments | Posted August 14, 2014 | 3:19 PM

Randy Credico, Governor Andrew Cuomo's opponent in the upcoming September 9 Democratic Primary was arrested and handcuffed yesterday for making a video of two white police officers arresting a Black man in the subway.

Late last night I received a call from New York gubernatorial candidate

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United States Sentencing Commission Votes to Retroactively Apply Drug Sentencing Reductions to Tens of Thousands of People

(8) Comments | Posted July 18, 2014 | 3:52 PM

Today the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to retroactively apply an amendment approved earlier this year by the U.S. Sentencing Commission that lowers federal guidelines for sentencing persons convicted of drug trafficking offenses. The vote could shorten sentences for tens of thousands of people who are already incarcerated and...

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Letters From the Front Lines of the Drug War

(0) Comments | Posted June 18, 2014 | 5:14 PM

Locking people up for nonviolent drug crimes has become the way of life in the United States. Because of this, our prisons have become tremendously overcrowded and our criminal justice system is broken.

To remedy this, Attorney General Eric Holder has initiated a number of proposals to

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Obama Clemency Plan for Drug Law Offenders Is Welcome News

(8) Comments | Posted April 22, 2014 | 10:31 AM

On Monday, a White House official told the press that President Obama would be prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes. This sort of "mass release" has not been seen since the...

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A Young Ukrainian Wants the World to Know the Importance of Freedom for Her People

(0) Comments | Posted March 4, 2014 | 8:37 AM

As a native New Yorker I must admit I am not on top of my world affairs. But through the friendship of someone who lived in the Ukraine I recently found out about the crisis that is currently taking place. After several discussions with my friend, who wants to remain...

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Gov. Cuomo Announces State Funding for College Education in Prison

(27) Comments | Posted February 17, 2014 | 5:14 PM

New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced
that NYS will fund college for prisoners. He hopes that this will give those serving time in prison an opportunity to obtain a college degree which in turn will help end the cycle of recidivism. According to Cuomo...

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Obama Administration Calls to Restore Felons Voting Rights

(0) Comments | Posted February 14, 2014 | 2:48 PM

Recently, the Obama administration continued to focus on criminal justice reform by zeroing in on felony disenfranchisement and calling for the restoration of voting rights to former felons. In a speech during a criminal justice reform event at Georgetown University Law Center, Attorney General Eric Holder called...

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President Obama Takes My Advice and Utilizes His Pardon Power

(4) Comments | Posted December 19, 2013 | 5:21 PM

Today President Obama commuted the sentences of eight federal inmates convicted for non-violent drug offenses involving crack cocaine. He also granted pardons to 13 others. This brings the total amount of individuals granted relief to 52 pardons and nine commutations since Obama has been in office.

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Will Gov. Cuomo Use His Clemency Powers in 2013?

(5) Comments | Posted December 17, 2013 | 4:50 PM

At the end of 2013 I look back at Gov. Andrew Cuomo's accomplishments and applaud him for what he has done to make New York State a better place. In November of 2010, on The Huffington Post, I wrote praising him:

We need a political leader like Andrew...
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I Turned Down 3 Years in Prison and Ended Up With 15 to Life

(86) Comments | Posted December 6, 2013 | 9:29 AM

A new report by Human Rights Watch titled "An Offer You Can't Refuse" revealed that only three percent of U.S. drug defendants in federal cases chose to go to trial instead of pleading guilty in 2012. The report explains that the reason only three percent go to trial...

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