15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom


15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom Crime
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Product Description

It's 1985 and 29-year-old family man Anthony Papa is the owner of a failing radio repair business. Offered $500 to deliver an envelope for an acquaintance, the desperate Papa agrees, unaware of the cocaine inside or the stingoperation that awaits. Though it's his first criminal offense, New York drugs laws dictate a mandatory 15-year-to-life prison term. When his self-portrait is exhibited at the Whitney Museum in 1994, a burst of public sympathy catches the attention of the governor leading to Papa's eventual release just three years short of the full sentence. A story featuring a 16-page signature with color photos and reproductions, this is a social critique of American drug laws.

Editorial Reviews

This tension-filled memoir by a prisoner turned activist and artist may seem familiar after Jennifer Gonnerman's NBA-nominated Life on the Outside, but unlike Gonnerman, Papa describes excessive imprisonment under harsh drug laws with the grim certainty of firsthand experience. In 1984, he rashly agreed, for $500, to deliver a package containing four and a half ounces of cocaine for a gambling acquaintance. It turned out to be a sting, and Papa was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life. Although at first suffused with melodramatic regret, the account becomes leaner when Papa arrives at Sing Sing and describes the hazards and absurdities of the notoriously crowded, grimy prison. He found spiritual release from despair and violence through educational programs on painting, writing and law. Papa's public stature rose after a painting of his was exhibited at the Whitney Museum, and after numerous travails threatened his health and sanity, he was granted executive clemency after 12 years behind bars. Papa has since been active with the group Mothers of the Disappeared and the movement to repeal the overly harsh Rockefeller drug laws; his paintings combine surrealist overtones with hard-edged subjects often derived from the prison-industrial complex, and they reflect the material of his book memorably. Agent, Noah Lukeman. (Dec. 22) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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