Barbaric prison system victim –
Jan. 9, 2021 – “He is a living example of the inequities in the system that existed due to the Rockefeller-era drug laws and has spent more than a decade working in the pursuit of justice for others,” Cuomo said. “The power of clemency is one I take very seriously, and Tony Papa’s work and deeds made it clear to me he was deserving of a pardon.”
Papa was convicted on drug sale and possession charges after he was caught holding just over 4 ounces of cocaine a friend paid him $500 to take from the Bronx to Mount Vernon in Westchester County.
“It was Christmastime, I had no money, I had to pay my rent and I got desperate,” Papa said. “And when you get desperate, you do stupid things.”
While in prison, Papa focused on art, and one of his paintings — a self-portrait — was selected for an exhibition at the Whitney Museum.
After Pataki commuted his sentence, Papa became an activist for reforming the Rockefeller laws. He formed the group Mothers of the New York Disappeared to advocate for change and also went to work for the Drug Policy Alliance.