Earlier this week, Cameron Douglas – who is serving a nine-and-a-half-year sentence for a drug law violation – wrote a stinging op-ed that was published in the Huffington Post. Douglas, son of actor Michael Douglas, offered a compelling critique of the U.S. justice system and the way it harshly punishes people who are struggling with drug addiction.
Douglas wrote that he "seem(s) to be trapped in a vicious cycle of relapse and repeat, as most addicts are." He went on to say that a long prison sentence without adequate treatment "does absolutely nothing but temporarily deter them from succumbing to their weakness.”
This was an exciting moment for me since I have been following Cameron’s story since his arrest in 2009, writing 10 pieces about his sad and exasperating case.
Meanwhile, the Drug Policy Alliance has been working with his family and legal team to appeal his sentence – which may be the longest-ever federal prison sentence imposed for the simple possession of drugs for personal use behind bars. Earlier this year, DPA submitted an amicus brief on behalf of a wide array of New York State’s and the nation’s leading medical and substance abuse treatment authorities that challenged his sentence. Nonetheless, Douglas’ sentence was upheld.
Douglas was first convicted in 2010. Last year he relapsed on drugs while serving his prison sentence. He was caught with very small amounts of opioids for personal use, including a single dose of a medication used to treat heroin dependence that he had obtained without a prescription. Prison officials placed him in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for 11 months and denied him social visits with family and friends. But the federal district court which imposed Mr. Douglas his original 60-month sentence wasn’t satisfied with these punishments, and nearly doubled Mr. Douglas’ sentence for his drug relapse by adding an additional 54 months to Mr. Douglas’ term.
This op-ed, Words Behind Walls, was written by Cameron from prison and submitted to DPA by his girlfriend, Kelly Sott. Our media team placed the op-ed in the Huffington Post and helped it get picked up by the Associated Press, putting Cameron’s story in hundreds of papers throughout the nation.