[Let us hope that reform of the draconian Rockefeller drug laws which were widely emulated by other states will not be forgotten in Albany.  One of the reasons for resistance to reform is that while most of those incarcerated are from 7 poor communities in NYC, the great bulk of the prisons are in upstate NY where jobs are scarce and prison guarding has filled that gap.  The Republican controlled Senate has also allowed the districts where these prisons sit to count prisoners (who cannot vote) as residents in voting population figures.

The most cruel feature of this geographical separation is that families (children of prisoners) cannot reach them.  Lest we forget, drug use is for too many depressed people a form of self medication to be treated not punished.  Also the prosecution of drug users is focused on minorities — 9/10 of those imprisoned — while non minorities out there who use drugs in greater numbers are largely spared arrest and imprisonment.  The U.S. vastly leads the rest of the world with prisoners (1/4 of the total while we have 1/20 the global population).  And diseases are compounded in our prisons also by such things rapes that transfer diseases such as AIDS.  A young father with two children so afflicted committed suicide two days after being released from prison several years ago.  Contact Tony Papa for more details. Ed Kent]


Ed, I just finished putting up this installation. I had a major confrontation with security which ordered me to take down two
upside down American flags after numerous complaints by faculty and
students.   After much debate the president of the college said I had a
constitutional right to express myself and I was allowed to show my art.
Please pass this around. Thanks, Tony

Immediate Release
Contact: Tony Newman 646-335-5385

August 7, 2007

Artist, Activist Tony Papa to Highlight Cruel Drug War with Art
Installation at Criminal Justice Conference at  John Jay College in NYC
on August  9-10

Show Visually Depicts Major Tragedies of Drug War: “Two Years for One
Joint”; “HIV Due to Dirty Syringes”; “Racial Disparity of Drug War”

Papa Discovered Art in Prison and Painted His Way to Freedom after 12
Years Behind Bars Under Draconian Drug Laws

Noted artist, activist and author Anthony Papa will highlight the
casualties of the war on drugs in an art installation during a
conference titled “On the Edge: Transgression and the Dangerous Other on
August 9 and 10 at John Jay College of Criminal Justice located at 899
10th Ave. in New York City.  The conference will involve presentations,
art and photographic exhibits, music, spoken word performances and film
screenings centered around the concept of a new criminology for the 21st

“The Drug War” is an art installation by artist/activist Anthony Papa.
The installation is a multi-media presentation that visually portrays
some of the most compelling drug war issues in the news.  The visual
narratives in the installation are powerful reminders of the raging war
on drugs that ravages many of our communities.  “The use of art as a
political weapon is not new,” says Papa who discovered his political
awareness through his art and has used his art as a vehicle to fight the
drug war.  “Through history, the role of the artist as a social
commentator has been invaluable.”

“Like Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ and Goya’s ‘Third of May,’ which both
powerfully portrayed the atrocities of war, my installation follows
their lead in revealing the impact of America’s drug war.

Papa spent 12 years in prison for a first time non-violent drug offense.
While imprisoned, he discovered his artistic talent.  In 1995, after a
showing of his art at the Whitney Museum, his case attracted national
attention.  Two years later, New York Governor George Pataki granted
Papa executive clemency.  Papa currently works for the Drug Policy

The installation highlights issues that affect all Americans, whether
they use drugs or not.  It is steeped in a continuous motif of an upside
down American flag, which signifies the universal concept of the state
of distress in war.

“Justice in Black and White” shows the racial imbalance of the effects
of the New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. Ninety-four percent of those
incarcerated under the laws are black and Latino. Ten crying babies
dress in prison garb dangle in front of their incarcerated mothers and
ask “where are our mothers?”

“Two Years in Jail for One Joint” shows the madness of the drug war.
Mitchell Lawrence, an 18-year-old was sentenced to two years in jail for
one joint by an over zealous prosecutor in Massachusetts. A single
golden joint sits in a silver jewelry box surrounded by dozens of

“Give Them All Dirty Needles and Let Them Die” – taken from the cruel
quote of TV’s “Judge Judy” – boldly illustrates how New Jersey is the
only U.S. state that lacks a needle exchange program. Dozens of bloodied
syringes penetrate a coffin draped with the New Jersey flag.

In “Cops or Docs” a marijuana plant asks the question who should decide
what medicine we should put in our bodies.

“Got a Cold? Prove it and Sign the Log” portrays the hoops Americans
must now jump through to buy cold medicine due to the federal
government’s desire to monitor our everyday actions in the name of the
curbing the methamphetamine “epidemic.” Papa hopes the installation
raises awareness for those in mainstream society who rarely think about
the drug war.

“I use my art as a means of visually translating the deep emotional
responses of the human condition,” Papa said. “My life choices forced me
to discover my hidden artistic talent.”

For more conference info: www.jjay.cuny.edu/ontheedge/

Drug-laws foe’s fete

THE Rockefeller Drug Laws will be repealed if Anthony Papa can reach
enough people.  Papa, who had a radio repair business in The Bronx and a
young daughter, did 12 years in Sing Sing after one of his bowling
teammates asked him in 1985 if he wanted to make $500 delivering an
envelope.  It turned out the package was cocaine.  Papa wrote “15 to
Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom,” about becoming an artist while
in prison.  He co-founded Mothers of the N.Y. Disappeared in 1998 to
bring attention to the unfairness of the 1973 laws which send low-level
drug dealers to jail for longer sentences than rapists or murderers.  On
Monday night, after an opening at the Whitney, Papa was feted at the
Waldorf Towers by hedge fund wizard Lawrence Goldfarb and such guests as
Andrew Cuomo, art dealer Donald Rosenfeld, Vanity Fair writer Frank
DiGiacomo and groom-to-be Al Reynolds, looking relaxed as his Nov. 12
wedding to Star Jones approaches.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]