Cameron Douglas Writes from Prison, Demanding Change
Michael Douglas' son, incarcerated for drug crimes, slams the system for its treatment of addicts.
In an editorial in The Huffington Post today, Cameron Douglas, currently serving a 9.5-year prison sentence for drug crimes, calls for reform of the criminal justice system's treatment of addicts. "There are half a million [non-violent drug offenders] in the US who, like me, will go to sleep behind bars tonight because of nothing more than a drug law violation," writes Douglas, 34, who has served 2 years of his sentencing in solitary confinement. The son of actor Michael Douglas was initially sentenced to five years in 2009 for selling methamphetamine; 4.5 years were then added to his sentence last year, after heroin and Suboxone were found in his prison cell. At the time, the Drug Policy Alliance and a group of leading addiction experts fought to appeal this increase—one of the harshest penalties ever recorded for drug possession in prison. "Punishing Douglas for using opiates in prison, while denying him treatment, is tantamount to punishing a diabetic for insulin possession," wrote The Fix's Maia Szalavitz. "Typically, prisoners caught with drugs are punished with loss of privileges like visits and phone calls, not a doubling of their initial sentence."
In his letter, Douglas criticizes the "outdated" criminal justice system for "paying little, if any, concern to the disease of addiction, and instead [punishing] it more harshly than many violent crimes." He argues that incarcerating addicts "does absolutely nothing but temporarily deter them from succumbing to their weakness" and calls on lawmakers and other people of influence to "find the courage to fight for change." Douglas admits his own transgressions and says he doesn't deserve "special treatment." "I'm not saying that I didn't deserve to be punished," he writes, "I made mistakes and I'll gladly and openly admit my faults. However, I seem to be trapped in a vicious cycle of relapse and repeat, as most addicts are."