For Those Left Behind

It was an extraordinary feeling to be set free after years of deprivation. The hardest part of dealing with my freedom was to accept the fact that my life was forever tainted by the label I wore as a convicted felon. I struggled with the idea of putting my past behind. However, I couldn't break away because I realized that through the rhetoric of crime and politics one very important factor was being overlooked. Our prisons are full of human beings that have made mistakes and were ready to return to society as law-abiding citizens, but were stuck because of harsh mandatory sentencing laws.

I have decided to use my talents to advocate for those I left behind. Through my voice I've managed to put a human face on the prison experience, thus enabling all that listen to look into their hearts and think about the concepts of forgiveness and redemption so that we can walk hand in hand on common ground to solve the problems we face as God's children. —Anthony Papa

ANTHONY PAPA was granted clemency in January 1997 after serving 12 years for possession of cocaine. While in prison Papa received three college degrees, including a master's through the New York Theological Seminary program. His self-portrait, "15 Years to Life," was displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1995.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 1999
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