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“Recently, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Acting Commissioner Anthony Annucci accepted the donation of my new memoir “This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency, to be placed in all 54 general libraries in New York state prisons. Annucci and several members of his staff reviewed the book and concluded that it would be a useful resource and guide for general population inmates as they contemplate the challenges that lie ahead when they are released to the community.
“In 1985, I was sentenced as a first-time nonviolent offender to 15 years-to-life under the Rockefeller Drug Laws. I served time at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining. It was there I became part of the prison labyrinth and spent the next 12 years, until I was granted executive clemency by Gov. George Pataki in 1997.
“I went on to write my first memoir, ’15 to Life: How I Painted my Way to Freedom,’ a story that captured my prison experience. Now, with my new offering, I talk about my 19 years of freedom and the struggle I have trying to re-enter society as a taxpaying, law-abiding citizen.
“Formerly incarcerated people re-entering society face a daunting array of problems that prevent them from successfully reintegrating. These include not being able to find employment or secure housing, dealing with substance abuse and mental health problems, and difficulties in re-establishing and developing relationships.
“On top of this, they also must face counterproductive and debilitating legal and practical barriers, including state and federal laws that hinder their ability to qualify for a job or get a higher education.”