Locked Up On A 10-Year Drug Sentence, Cameron Douglas Writes An Op-Ed From Prison

The son of actor Michael Douglas spoke from behind bars to condemn the way our criminal justice system treats drug addicts like him.

Earlier this week, Cameron Douglas – who is serving a nine-and-a-half-year sentence for drug law violations – wrote a stinging op-ed that was published and picked up by hundreds of media sources.  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.” It was the first time Douglas spoke to the public from behind bars, where he has been living for three years. 

This was an exciting moment for me, since I have been following Douglas’ story since his arrest in 2009, writing 10 pieces about his sad and exasperating case.

Douglas was first convicted of drug crimes in 2010. Then, last year, he relapsed while serving his sentence. Prison officials caught him 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.  They 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 Douglas his original 60-month sentence, wasn’t satisfied with these punishments, and nearly doubled his sentence by adding an additional 54 months to Douglas’ term.

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.

Read the rest of Douglas' piece here.

This piece was originally posted on the Drug Policy Alliance’s blog.


Anthony Papa is the manager of media and artists relations for the Drug Policy Alliance. He is the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency.

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