• Marques Taus

Incarceration V. Rehabilitation: Small Drug Crimes

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

By Marques Taus // Dec 22., 2019

The United States criminal justice system has served just about everything but justice when it comes to minor drug offenses: they’ve immorally handed thousands of people outrageous prison sentences for crimes that could easily be corrected. One particular story being that of Patricia Spottedcrow who was sentenced to twelve years in prison for $31 worth of marijuana. It’s stories like Patricia’s where people who have the capability of improving their lives end up serving an abhorrent amount of jail time.

The unjust incrimination of those who commit minor drug offenses is a major side effect of the war on drugs. Propelled by the Reagan Administration, the war on drugs initiated a wave of laws to combat drug use. For example, The Rockefeller Drug Laws, which sentenced a man I met named Anthony Papa to jail for fifteen years. The Rockefeller Laws gave each and every person convicted of a drug crime of ANY sort a minimum of 15 years to life in prison.

I met Anthony Papa while visiting my uncle and New York University in New York City. My uncle happens to work with Papa and invited me to play some tennis with the two of them. I had no idea who Mr. Papa was at this time but hearing small details of his story certainly gained my interest. We were at the Brooklyn Bridge Park when I met Mr. Papa, who had a very serious grim-like face on the gloomy-weathered east coast morning. I did not partake in tennis with the two, but when their match came to a close and my uncle was getting ready for a picture with the three of us, Mr. Papa told me to hold up a racket to make it seem like I had my fair share of back hands. Papa continued to inform me of his story over a brunch style breakfast while my uncle added details about our corrupt criminal justice system.

Marques, his uncle, and Mr. Papa

Mr. Papa told me a few stories about his work helping people to get reduced jail time for drug offenses. He told me about Cameron Douglas, Michael Douglas’ son, and how he tried to support Cameron Douglas despite several people advising him to shy away because of Cameron Douglas’ privileges. Anthony Papa believed and continues to believe that no person should be incriminated for a crime that could be rehabilitated. I really thought this was funny because of the shared disapproval among my Uncle and Anthony Papa of Cameron Douglas, New Yorkers can be brutal with their descriptions of a person they don’t like, HA.

As briefly stated before, Anthony Papa and my uncle Tony Newman both work for the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization that fights for reduced prison sentences and an increase in rehabilitation for those convicted of drug crimes. Both my Uncle and Mr. Papa taught me a great deal about how much they do for people who have been dealt injustice by the criminal “justice” system.

Although I was deeply saddened by Mr. Papa’s story, he and my uncle gave me hope for the United States’ criminal justice system. Organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance will continue to fight against the incrimination of those who have potential of rehab. I truly believe that the people of this country will soon realize that the criminal justice system has done the opposite of its intended purpose.

Artwork done by an anonymous prisoner

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