In 2010, Cameron Douglas, the son of actor Michael Douglas, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to charges that he was in possession of heroin and was dealing large amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine out of a New York hotel room.
Last year, while in prison, Douglas, 33 — who has been injecting himself with heroin daily since his mid-20s — was busted again, this time with a small amount of opioids. As a result, Douglas was given an additional 4 1/2 years in prison — a sentence experts say is one of the harshest sentences ever handed down by a federal judge in a simple drug possession case.
Douglas has appealed the additional sentence, which has landed him the support of the Drug Policy Alliance.
In a 46-page amicus brief (which you can read below), filed by the DPA on behalf of several substance-abuse treatment experts, it’s argued that Douglas’ additional sentence is unjust and excessive. The group contends that drug treatment programs behind bars are inadequate, which is what led to Douglas’ continued drug use.
“Tacking on more prison time for a person who is addicted to drugs
because they relapse behind bars goes against fundamental principles of
medicine, inflicts unnecessary suffering and undermines both safety and
health,” the brief’s author, Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal
affairs for the drug policy alliance, says. “Such a response only fuels
the vicious cycle we see daily across the country of drug-dependent
persons being imprisoned while sick, coming out sicker, and then
returning to jail even quicker – at huge expense to everyone.”
getting busted with drugs in prison, Douglas was placed in solitary
confinement — where he was in a cell for 23 hours a day — for 11
months. He also lost visitation privileges.
In their brief,
substance-abuse experts argue that Douglas’ drug relapse behind bars is
not surprising, particularly given the fact that he was not provided any
meaningful drug treatment while in prison.
Experts argue that to sentence Douglas to an additional 54 months for
his drug relapse is not only counterproductive to his health, but is,
inhumane. They argue that such a lengthy sentence “is futile both as a
means of deterring drug use and obedience with the law, and that Mr.
Douglas’ medical conditions deserve adequate treatment, not
Read the entire brief below. For more info on the Drug Policy Alliance, click here.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 21, 2012