Papa Received Clemency From Governor George Pataki in 1997 After “Painting His Way to Freedom”
The Drug Policy Alliance congratulates Anthony Papa on receiving a pardon from New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo. Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance, where he recently celebrated his ten year anniversary and the release of his new memoir, This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency. The book details his experience over the past two decades, after serving 12 years of a 15–to-life sentence under the Rockefeller Drug Laws for a first time non-violent drug offense. Papa gained his freedom after he received executive clemency from Governor George Pataki in 1997.
“Tony Papa broke the law but the real crime was committed by the State of New York when it locked him up for 15–to-life for a first time, non-violent drug transaction,” said Ethan Nadelmann. “Tony has been a great colleague for more than a decade but his very success highlights the vast waste and destruction of human lives in the name of a drug war that will go down in history as a massive violation of basic human rights. His pardon is well deserved. Many more deserve the same.”
In 2004 Papa wrote his first memoir, 15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom, which documents his time behind bars and how he used his art to paint his way to freedom – both metaphorically and literally. Recently, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci accepted Papa’s donation of his new memoir, This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency, to be placed in the 54 general libraries of all New York’s state prisons. The book was deemed to be a useful resource and guide for general population inmates as they contemplate the challenges that lie ahead when they are released. Papa has been a staunch supporter of educational programs in prison and says that people can turn their lives around while incarcerated, especially if the proper rehabilitative programs are available to aid them.
According to the NYS Clemency website, clemency applications commonly come in two forms: sentence commutations and pardons. In general, a commutation is a sentence reduction and a pardon provides unique relief for individuals who have completed their sentences but remain disadvantaged by their criminal history. It is exceedingly rare for someone to receive both clemency and a subsequent pardon.
“I want to thank Governor Cuomo for granting me this pardon,” said Papa. “He is a champion of the people and a hero to me. The road to freedom was not an easy one, and maintaining that freedom is not easy because of the many roadblocks for formerly incarcerated individuals. I have tried to set an example to show that people can become productive citizens upon release if given the opportunity.””