Harsh Cameron Douglas Sentence Sparks Appeal, Support

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #735)
Politics & Advocacy

Cameron Douglas, the son of noted Hollywood actor Mike Douglas, had a well-known history of drug addiction when he was sentenced to five years in federal prison for heroin possession and drug distribution. Not offered drug treatment, Douglas relapsed while in prison and was caught in possession of a small amount of heroin and Suboxone.

[image:1 align:right caption:true]Most federal prisoners caught with small amounts of drugs are dealt with administratively, and that happened to Douglas. He spent 11 months in solitary confinement and was denied visits during that period for his transgression.

But, unusually, Douglas was also prosecuted for drug possession by a prisoner, and even more unusually, he was hammered hard at sentencing. Federal District Court Judge Richard Berman nearly doubled his original drug trafficking time, sentencing him to an additional 4 ½ years in prison. Prosecutors had asked for at most an additional two years.

In imposing the harsh sentence, Judge Berman said that Douglas was "continuously reckless, disruptive, and noncompliant" and had repeatedly refused to obey the law.

The draconian sentence for Douglas has sparked a reaction. Unlike most federal prisoners, thanks to his father, Douglas had the resources to appeal his sentence, which is possibly the longest in federal prison history for simple drug possession behind bars. And now that appeal has been joined by about two dozen addiction and drug treatment doctors and organizations who have signed an amicus curiae brief on his behalf.

The brief does not just argue that Douglas should be sentenced more leniently; it argues that Douglas is a classic example "of someone suffering from untreated opioid dependence" and that more prison time will do nothing to address his addiction. The brief shows that many federal prisoners suffer from drug addictions, that many fail to get any meaningful treatment for it in prison, and argues that imposing additional incarceration for drug-addicted prisoners serves no penological purpose.

"A central theme of the [brief] is the need to provide effective, evidence-based treatment to opioid-dependent persons, particularly to those under criminal justice supervision. Time and again, over the past four decades, the provision of appropriate substance abuse treatment to opioid-dependent persons has been shown to profoundly improve not only their health and well-being across a broad range of metrics, but also the health and safety of the larger public. This is especially true of methadone and other opioid substitution treatments," the brief argued.

"Conversely, [we] are acutely aware of the ramifications when such treatment is withheld -- the suffering, disease, death, and criminal behavior that result when punitive sanctions replace proven medical interventions and opioid dependence is left to fester," the addiction specialists argued.

The brief was written by Dan Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, which organized the effort to intervene in the Douglas case. Its signatories include the New York and California Societies of Addiction Medicine, as well as other medical, public health and human rights organizations, along with prominent individual physicians and substance abuse researchers.

"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," said Abrahamson.  "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."

Most federal prisoners don't have the resources or the celebrity of Cameron Douglas, but many share his struggles with addiction. Justice for Cameron Douglas could help lead to more just treatment for them, as well.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


The C.J (not verified)

i love how Cam was caught with dope & suboxone - perfectly example of suboxones real use to real users in the real world. for those who just smoke pot and have no idea what taking either of those things are like or about - its really simple. dope is the greatest thing in the world, dope users are - and true of pot users too, i guess drug users in general, the bastards of society - indeed, as quoted by Francis Moraes PHD in the Heroin Users Handbook, its not the abuse of drugs by the drug user by the abuse of the drug user by society which is the true problem. Cam is a perfect example of this. Naturally it'll be hard for him to maintain his sanity (if he hasnt already lost it after the solitary incident) now that all these psychotic "drug treatment" people are getting involved in his life. I guess I'll have to try to send the lad some mail and see if hopefully i can help him out. The outrageous sentence is just that, outrageous. Normally I'd say do every thing in your power to go to prison instead of treatment - it worked for me beautifully, id have had to do treatment and have government involved in my life for several years if id have accepted that but my attitude at my 3 misdemeanor trial was no way im going to jail dont even try it - and i ended up pleading guilty to a disorderly conduct charge. that's all she wrote. But most people are unenlightened about the war on drugs, the worst of all is us drug users that don't know much about it. Suboxone is a joke & the ultimate waste of time. I mean it. I think it is a greater waste of time than AA... well, actually, i can't really say that. Drug treatment & suboxone are pretty much equal in their uselessness. I feel so sorry for Cam. He is so screwed here. You know, I think we should just be honest now and I think Cam, you gotta do what you can to stay in jail and behave yourself, by the book "Youre Going To Jail." - no, ill get it and send it to him. I feel real bad here. I hope he doesnt end up in drug treatment because treatment doesnt work, the poor kid is going to suffer twice as long. This isnt really about him ultimately or drug treatments useless pointlessness and ineffectiveness - what this is really about is that Cam shouldnt be in this place. None of us should ever be in this place. We like to use drugs - some of us like to use certain drugs that others of us dont but nevertheless we all love to use drugs and they say we cant. they who have no freakin idea what its like and just ruthlessly judge us tell us if you do what you want simply because we do not approve you are going to suffer like a caged animal. But we're not dumb enough to sit back and not ask questions. We know they're wrong and we do what we want - that's the problem for Cam. He shouldn't be in jail, shouldn't be coerced into any stupid treatment. He should be doing what i do, nodding out in paradise on a bench somewhere just like the four buddies out for a blunt ride, the five friends at the night club hitting up the bathroom every ten minutes for a sniffy wiffy of the cokey wokey. Simple as that.


I do love how the dope + suboxone is being ignored. I love it. Its just so typical. SUBOXONE DOESNT DO ANYTHING BUT STOP WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS AND BLOCK OPIATES FROM WORKING - IF you are opiate niave, yes it will.. sort of work, but, in my experience that feeling is really lame and most people throw up alot and get very ill using it for that purpose. 


Ill just state this here for the pot user who doesnt have any idea what the modern opiate lovers life is like and uses false assumptions based off dumb tv shows, documentaries and dumb movies like trainspotting and requiem for a dream and drugstore cowboy etc.

basically if your a genuine modern day opiate user who does not have tons and tons of money at their disposal and tremendous discipline, you basically need to find or come up with x amount of dollars every single day to obtain your desired amount of heroin or pain killers. So much of this problem is the result of prohibition and not the drug. Infact, the drug of opiates does absolutely nothing wrong or bad. It is tremendously beautiful, wonderful, great etc. it is quite the incredible scene everyday as the opiate user makes financial miracle after miracle, if i told you the amount of money ive seen made every day it would absolutely astound you - i know nobody would believe it, unless they have experienced this themselves. But it is very very tiresome. It does get accomplished but it isn't necessarily easy, sometimes nor is it pleasant and there is so much other stress you have to factor in to it - some places it's not illegal to panhandle, some it is, etc. etc. sometimes people are just burned out... to get to that point though, it takes years and it doesn't mean they stop or want to stop, it could mean they just dont get enough that day or whatever. Furthermore rain storms, other things that make a days money difficult, there comes occassions where no matter what you do, its just not going to happen, whatever the reason, even if you have had a lucky thing happen - tax return, rich person feel bad for you and throw you a few hundred dollar bills - found something of value of yours that really boosts your bank account, even when you have 5x the normal amount of money,  sometimes your man is sold out of stock, or has had their own emergency and all your back ups arent feesable or whatever the issue is, this is when you begin looking for a sub. suboxone. In Cams case, busted with a little dope and a sub or two, that was possibly alot of dope once and he was down to a little, smart kid, he had a sub, didnt know when hed get dope again so he could break that sub into four pieces and avoid the sickness for four days, plenty of time to figure out where your getting your next bag of dope or pill from. Suboxone is a waste of time, its the ultimate back up plan for a user. It is just a waste of freakin time. Hydromorphone maintenance is the only legitimate heroin opiate maintenance thing that works, to be honest, anything like oxycodone, roxicet all of those would work perfectly for opiate maintenance as well. The point of opiate maintenance is to give the user the closest thing to their drug of choice as possible, not the other way around, as is demonstrated incredibly by the rest of the world - whereby in this country, if thats your attitude when you try to get opiate maintenance treatment your treated like a lunatic. LOL. Honestly beyond hydromorphone, roxi, oxy etc. the best thing is diacetylmorphine, but that is 100% illegal in the good ol usa right now - its not in the UK or elsewhere but here it is so thats why i bring up hydromorphone. Nevertheless, drug warriors, drug war, ignornace, greed and lunacy of drug treatment, it will be some time before we really "get it" here. I really doubt Cam has any idea about the truth of the opiate situation and i doubt hell be able to withstand the manipulation of these so called drug treatment doctors and so called drug treatment people. I just do not understand how anybody could be a proponent of COERCED treatment. How could that even exist when the word COERCE is involved?!!?!? ITS MADNESS!!! COERCION! IN ANYTHING!! WTF! SERIOUSLY!! COERCE!! The word in it of itself is freakin VILE!! What is the meaning of this madness??! That politicians and so called reformists approve and want this? COERCE? DOES ANYBODY WANT TO BE FREAKIN COERCED INTO ANYTHING?! NO!!!!!! ITS SICK! IF YOU ARE A PROPONENT OF COERCED TREATMENT OR COERCION OF ANY KIND YOU ARE A REAL SICK PUPPY. YOUR A REAL SICK PIECE OF GARBAGE. HONESTLY AND I HOPE YOU ROT IN HELL WITH YOUR SO CALLED HIGHER POWER YOU FREAKIN IMBECILE.

Tue, 05/22/2012 - 9:08am Permalink

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