Anthony Papa

This Groundbreaking Art Show Is Challenging the Prison-Industrial Complex

A groundbreaking exhibit challenging the criminal justice system will be opening on August 24 at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Texas. Walls Turned Sideways is a group show with more than 40 artists. The exhibit is curated by Risa Puleo, who splits her time between New York, Texas and Europe. She attended Bard’s Center for Curatorial Studies Program and has a master’s in art history from Hunter College.

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Meet the Man Sentenced to 13 Years for Two Marijuana Joints

This podcast was originally published on Drugs and Stuff, a podcast from the Drug Policy Alliance.

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Is Trump Using His Pardon Powers the Right Way?

President Trump and the use of presidential pardons is all over the news. Earlier this week the President met with Kim Kardashian to discuss the case of Alice Marie Johnson, a grandmother who has spent more than 20 years behind bars on a drug charge.

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Bernard Noble Finally Granted Parole After Being Sentenced to 13 Years for Possessing Two Joints

Bernard Noble, who was sentenced to 13 years for possessing two marijuana joints, was granted parole yesterday after serving more than 8 years in a Louisiana prison. His case drew national attention and outrage, at a time when states are legalizing marijuana and individuals are making big bucks with the business of marijuana.

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Should Making a Music Video Keep Luke Scarmazzo in Prison?

In 2008 Luke Scarmazzo and Ricardo Ruiz Montes were found guilty of drug charges for operating a medical marijuana dispensary and both sentenced to 20 years in federal prison with the possibility of life behind bars.

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Cameron Douglas Smokes Pot, Violates Probation

It was inevitable. I knew he was going to relapse, after all it’s an acceptable part of drug addiction. Cameron was released from prison and doing well. He was working, writing his new memoir and just enjoying his life after serving 7 years hard time for a drug sale. Then his world almost fell apart just three months later.

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Jeff Sessions Should Learn from the Past Mistakes of Fighting the Drug War

In the 1980s and ‘90s the U.S. relied on tougher laws which mandated mandatory minimum sentencing that did nothing to reduce drug abuse or drug prohibition-related violence, but contributed significantly to staggering government deficits as prison spending skyrocketed.

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Oklahoma’s Larry Yarbrough to be Freed after 23 Years in Prison

Larry Yarbrough was sentenced in 1997 to life without parole for the sale of one ounce of cocaine. It’s hard to imagine someone being sentenced to that much time for such a small amount of drugs. But under the new guidance from Attorney General Sessions we will see more sentences like this handed out. Just last week Sessions told prosecutors to charge drug offenders with the harshest possible sentences they could give allowing mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines to kick in in federal cases.

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Dr. Carl Hart’s Life Threatened for Speaking Out Against President Duterte

On May 15, I was invited to appear on Democracy Now, along with Dr. Carl Hart, about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his controversial new plan to have prosecutors across the country throw the book at drug offenders and charge them with the fullest extent of the law. This includes using mandatory minimum sentencing laws which handcuff judges and prevent them from looking at the totality of facts within a particular case.

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Jeff Sessions Escalates Drug War and Urges Prosecutors to Seek Harsh Sentencing

When President Trump came into office and appointed Jeff Sessions, drug war activists feared that he would take away the tremendous progress that was gained under the Obama administration. Now our greatest fear materialized when Attorney General Jeff Sessions just released a memo to prosecutors, calling on them to push for the “most serious” charges against people, hoping to trigger mandatory minimum drug sentences. This policy reverses former attorney general Eric Holder directive which asked prosecutors to avoid using mandatory minimum sentencing laws. 

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What My Pardon from Governor Andrew Cuomo Means to Me

On Dec. 30, 2016, I received a call from Governor Andrew Cuomo's office informing me that I had just been granted a pardon. My knees shook and arms got numb as the news sunk in. It was the exact feeling I had in 1996 in Sing Sing prison when I was told by the Deputy of Security that I was granted executive clemency by then Governor George Pataki. But now was different. Back then I was on the tail end of serving a 15-to-life sentence for passing an envelope of 4.5 ounces of cocaine to undercover officers. I was to make a fast $500 for the delivery. Being desperate I wound up doing a stupid thing to make some fast money. I not only ruined my life, but the life of my 7-year-old daughter Stephanie, who until this day has never recovered from the stigma generated from the crime I committed.

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Voices From the Inside: Celebrate the Power of Prisoners' Writing

This article was originally published by The Influence, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on Facebook or Twitter.

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My Vote as an Ex-Felon is an Important One

The ability to vote is one of great importance and should be enjoyed by every citizen. Until you lose your right to vote you will not understand this. I can attest to this since I lost my ability to vote for many years because of a crime I committed.

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President Obama Continues to Commute Non-Violent Drug War Prisoners

This week President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 214 people incarcerated in federal prison, almost all for drug offenses. This brings his total number of clemencies granted to 562 people. Many of those who received commutations today were victims of the disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine. These powder/crack drug laws have managed to destroy not only the lives of those sentenced but also their families and loved ones.

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Cameron Douglas Is Almost Free After 7 Years in Prison

Cameron Douglas is free! Well, almost free. It is reported that he was released to a federal half-way house in Brooklyn after serving 7 years. So in reality he has one foot in prison and the other foot out of prison. I recently have been in contact with him and he seems to be doing well. He is out in the free world for over a month now. Cameron is working and adjusting to life and I know he wants to write about his prison experience just as he did when he wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post. As someone who spent 12 years behind bars on a nonviolent drug offense, I know returning to society after serving a long time in prison is not easy. I just wrote about this subject in my new book "This Side of Freedom: Life after Clemency.

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End the Drug War: Philippines President Duterte Says Kill All Drug Dealers

President Rodrigo Duterte,  the new leader of the Philippines is out of his mind. His method in solving the drug war is simple, curb demand and supply by killing off drug dealers. What if he continues his madness and wipes out thousands of suspected dealers and suddenly illegal drugs disappear from the streets of that country? 

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Jeff Bezos and Amazon's Book Review Policy Is Destroying Indie Authors' Ability to Sell Books

Imagine breaking your back writing your memoir with the dream of getting it published.

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An Incident on the Subway Proved How Hard It Was for Me to Adjust to Life After Prison

This article was originally published by The Influence, a news site that covers the full spectrum of human relationships with drugs. Follow The Influence on Facebook or Twitter.

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My Daughter Had a Baby and I Don't Even Know Her Name

Note:  The following is an excerpt from Anthony Papa's “This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency,“ his new memoir that talks about his life after serving 12 years for a non-violent drug crime in NY state, and being granted executive clemency by New York Governor George Pataki in 1997. The excerpt is about his daughter Stephanie, who he has not spoken to for seven years. She recently had a baby girl whose name he does not even know. 

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Grandpa Who Spent 22 Years in Prison for Ounce of Cocaine Finally Gets Clemency

Activists have fought hard for many years to get Larry Yarbrough back his freedom. Their prayers were answered when Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin granted Yarbrough executive clemency on March 18, 2016.

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Michael Moore's Portrayal of Norway Prison vs. My 15-to-Life Sentence in the U.S.

Michael Moore does a lot of traveling in his new documentary, Where to Invade Next. The film is eye-opening as Moore explores what it could be like to implement new ideas and policies in the U.S. Moore travels to several countries in Europe, North Africa and Scandinavia to make sure we slowly but surely get this point.

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John Oliver Ridicules America’s Plan for Re-Entry of Former Prisoners Into Society

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. I hate to say it, but Oliver is correct. How do I know this? I served 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for a non-violent drug crime. I had survived the prison experience and made my way to freedom by painting and self-expression. But I soon learned that freedom has its costs.

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

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 possible mistake you could make and was sentenced to two 15-to-life terms under the mandatory minimum provisions of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Since it was my first brush with the law, the judge gave me a break and ran my two sentences together giving me one 15-to-life sentence in 1985. Now, in 2015, I still feel the stigma of being an ex-felon. It affects every aspect of my life, from work to even my love life. The question I ask is "When does being an ex-felon end, so I can go on in my live without carrying the stigmatizing label."

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An Open Letter to the 6,000 Prisoners Coming Home

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.

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

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. Bernard's sentence is a prime example of the draconian nature of the marijuana laws in many states across the country. In stark contrast to Louisiana, many states have decriminalized possession of marijuana for personal use, with the offense being punishable by a fine and with no threat of jail time. 

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46K Drugs Prisoners Could Get Reduced Sentences

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 serving sentences for drug offenses by granting eligible individuals a hearing before a federal judge to evaluate whether their sentence can be reduced to match the reduced guidelines.

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New York State Will Fund College Education in Prison

The following originally appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog.

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Obama Administration Calls to Restore Felons’ Voting Rights

This following originally appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance Blog

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Will NY's Governor Pardon Any Nonviolent Prisoners Before the Year Is Over?

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, I wrote an article praising him saying that we needed a political leader like Andrew to halt the waste of scarce tax dollars on half-empty prisons. I went on to say that when he would be sworn in as governor of New York State he would have the ability to correct the economic waste that had been generated by the archaic prison industrial complex and could implement a smarter economic approach that eventually will lead to a better functioning criminal justice system that would be cost efficient for the people of New York.

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I Turned Down 3 Years in Prison and Ended up with 15 to Life

The following article first appeared on the Drug Policy Alliance blog

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The Unbelievable Story of the Man Saving the Children of Incarcerated Parents - Featured on PBS

Terrence Stevens is on a mission to save children whose parents are incarcerated. 

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