Anthony Papa (born June 6, 1960, in New York City) is an artist, author, advocate against the war on drugs and co-founder of the Mothers of the New York Disappeared.
On December 30, 2016, Anthony Papa was granted a pardon from Gov. Andrew Cuomo becoming the first individual in NYS to receive both a clemency (Gov. Pataki 1996) and a pardon. In January of 2017 An exclusive interview was made by reporter Glenn Blain of the NY Daily News. According to the Huffington Huffington Post] the pardon represented a vindication for him and a public proclamation that the punishment he received was inappropriate for the non violent drug crime he committed. "This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency" is a follow up memoir about Papa's 20 years of freedom. The Socialist Worker and other media outlets covered his book release. It was reported on June 25, 2017 by Richard Johnson of the NY Post that "Tony Papa, who became an advocate against the war on drugs after 12 years behind bars, is trying to get Adrian Grenier to star in the story of his life, "This Side of Freedom." Papa sent the "Entourage" star his screenplay and Grenier wrote back, "Love it. I could play you for sure".
"This Side of Freedom: Life after Clemency" is a tale about the life of activist, writer and artist Anthony Papa. He tells firsthand of his experience of returning home after serving 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for a non-violent drug crime sentenced under the mandatory provisions of the Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York State. In 1997 he was granted executive clemency by New York Governor George Pataki. Papa says that the freedom he fought so hard to get, smacked him swiftly in the face, overpowering him. He struggles with his freedom while fighting to free those he left behind. Papa goes through heart-wrenching trials and tribulations as he seeks to end the war on drugs and save those he left behind. Along the way he meets an array of individuals from famous movie stars to politicians and the very rich, enlisting their help in doing away with mass incarceration and draconian sentencing laws that have destroyed America's criminal justice system.
15 to Life, published in 2004, is an autobiographical account of Papa's experience with the New York criminal justice system and anti-narcotics laws under which he was sentenced to fifteen years to life imprisonment for a first time drug offense. New York's strict drug laws, enacted during the term of former governor Nelson Rockefeller, and now known as the Rockefeller drug laws are among the toughest in the United States. The possession of 4 ounces (113 g) or more of such drugs as heroin and cocaine — or the sale of 2 ounces (57 g) or more of the same substances — carried the same penalties as those imposed for second-degree murder. (The laws were revised in 2004/2005.) The book 15 to Life is currently being transformed into a major film as reported by Variety. This film option was not renewed by the producers and all of Papa's rights were reverted back to him in 2014. Currently Papa wrote his own screenplay and is looking for new representation. This is his story in a nutshell. Actor Uma Thurman narrates Tony Papa's story.
As reported by Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News, Papa had enjoyed a middle-class life as an owner of an auto-repair and radio business prior to his arrest. According to this account, he was a family man and had never been in trouble with the law. But when a member of Papa's bowling team offered Papa "some easy money" for delivering an envelope of cocaine to the town of Mount Vernon, New York, "Papa foolishly agreed". As it happened, the courier who gave him the envelope was an undercover police informant and when Papa delivered the 4.5 ounces (128 g) of cocaine he was promptly arrested. His website 15 to Life contains all his information.
Following his conviction for sales and possession, Papa was sentenced to one 15-to-life sentence. Papa served 12 years in Sing Sing before Governor George Pataki granted him clemency in 1996. During his imprisonment, Papa earned two bachelor's degrees and a master's from the New York Theological Seminary. In prison he discovered his artistic talent, and used his art to figuratively paint his way to freedom some when his famous self-portrait "15 to Life" was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art which led to a flood of media attention.
After his release Papa tried his hand at acting on HBO's Oz and has appeared in several films. Papa went on a rescue mission to save others he left behind that were sentenced under the draconian drug laws and founded The Mothers of the New York Disappeared in 1997 (along with Randy Credico), and this group became the leading activist entity against the Rockefeller Drug Laws. Papa continued his advocacy to reform the drug laws of the United States currently works for Drug Policy Alliance as the manager of Media Relations. He continues to use the arts as an effective tool to fight for those less fortunate. His stinging op-ed's can be found in regional papers across the United States and his advocacy for drug law reform has been covered by national magazines such Time magazine.
On March 7, 2009, after years of advocating for meaningful reform of the Rockefeller Drug laws Gov. Paterson signed into law sweeping revisions leaving Papa vindicated.
Papa then appeared with Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter in Quebrando o Tabu (2011) a film released in Brazil about the global war on drugs directed by Fernando Grostein Andrade and produced by Luciano Huck. The film was then re-released under the name of "Breaking the Taboo" when Sam Branson (son of Richard Branson of Virgin)partnered with Andrade. The film, narrated by Morgan Freeman premiered in London and New York and has made a huge impact around the world. https://www.youtube.com/user/breakingthetaboofilm
In 2011 Papa became an apologist for Cameron Douglas when he was convicted of a drug crime and sentenced to 5 years in prison. While in prison he continued his drug use and got caught causing the judge in his case to give him an additional four and a half years in prison. Papa has written 16 opinion pieces defending Cameron. In 2012 his father Michel Douglas while on national television accepting his Emmy award told the world that he was being denied the ability to visit his son for two years because of Cameron's drug use in prison. Papa then started a petition on Change.org which was covered by extensive media including Perez Hilton, Radar On Line, Daily Mail, demanding that Douglas see his son. Thousands of emails were sent to Attorney General Holder and the warden of the prison that held Cameron. Soon after Michael Douglas was allowed to visit his son.
Papa has been very vocal about the war on drugs appearing on national shows such as MSNBC, CNN He has appeared on shows such as the Democracy Now, and FOX NEWS and many other media outlets across the United States. Recently he has spoken about Attorney General Jeff Session's attempt to bring back the drug war of the 1980s and 1990s.