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#rockreform10: anthony papa on the rockefeller drug laws

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Anthony Papa on the Rockefeller Drug Laws

NY Daily News Op-Ed and Video

Anthony Papa thanking Governor David A. Paterson for signing reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws, 2009.


Our first contribution for the #RockReform10 project is from Anthony Papa — author, artist, activist, and manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance

Papa was sentenced to 15-year-to-life for a first time, non-violent drug offense under the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. He was incarcerated at Sing-Sing, a maximum security prison in New York. There, he learned to paint, and eventually — and quite literally — he painted his way to freedom, securing clemency from Governor Pataki in 1997. Upon Papa’s release, he dedicated himself to helping those left behind in prison, and he has been an activist for reform ever since. He co-founded the Mothers of the New York Disappeared, organized regular protests and lobby days, became a prolific writer (Papa has written hundreds and hundreds of op-eds about the fight to end the war on drugs), wrote multiple books, created art to be used in the service of justice, and so much more. In 2018, Papa was pardoned by Governor Cuomo, becoming the first person in New York history to be given both a clemency and a pardon. 

We’re grateful to Papa for being the first contributor to the #RockReform10 project, with this op-ed featured in the New York Daily News. Papa marks the ten year anniversary of the passage in Albany of the reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws – on April 2nd, 2009. 

Read his piece here.

Along with this piece, Papa shared with #RockReform10 this short video as well, about the history of the Rockefeller Drug Laws and the fight for repeal. 

You can learn more about Papa’s work and art by visiting his website.

Finally, please consider checking out Papa’s powerful memoir, 15 to Life, about this experience being incarcerated under the Rockefeller Drug Laws and how he literally painted his way to Freedom. Purchase your copy here.

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