A group of prominent addiction doctors have mounted a quiet legal campaign on behalf of Cameron Douglas, the son of actor Michael Douglas, in hopes of expressing the view that drug addiction is best handled with more treatment, not more jail time.
According to NYTimes.com, Cameron is serving a 5-year federal sentence for heroin possession and drug distribution. In December, he was sentenced to an additional four and a half years when he was caught with heroin and Suboxone. That sentence, believed to be one of the harshest ever handed down by a federal judge for drug possession for an incarcerated prisoner, prompted about two dozen addiction doctors and groups to file a brief on behalf of Cameron Douglas. The case is under review by a panel from the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
This group argues that Cameron is a textbook example "of someone suffering from untreated opioid dependence." He began injecting heroin daily in his early 20s, and this plea argues that more prison time will not solve his underlying problems. Dr. Robert Newman, the director of the Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center, said, "My outrage is as a physician for someone who has a medical condition which has been ignored. What the judge has imposed has zero benefits for the community and has staggering consequences for society."
Cameron's sentence is unusual. Generally, inmates caught with drugs are sanctioned administratively with loss of privileges. Cameron received additional time, as well as loss of family visits and stints of isolation. The judge made it clear at Cameron's sentencing that his patience had run out, describing Cameron Douglas as "continuously reckless, disruptive, and noncompliant."
This legal brief seeks to not only reduce Cameron's 54-month sentence, but they would like the appellate panel to make a statement on "how the federal corrections system, in particular, but corrections in general have for a lng time ignored the treatment needs of their inmates."
Cameron Douglas started drinking heavily as a teenager. He moved on to using intravenous cocaine and heroin, and was eventually arrested in 2009 for trying to sell large amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine. In 2010, he pled guilty and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Since his arrest, he has had several episodes where he was involved with drugs behind bars. One expert said, "A guy like this gets into prison, he's got star power, so people inside actually they actually want to get close to him. And they do that by offering him drugs. The various powers that be view addiction as a disease, but they treat people who have this illness as criminals."
Cameron's father. Michael Douglas, did not want to comment on the brief out of respect for the court. He did express relief from reports that his son had recently been released from protective custody. He said, "We did get some light at the end of the tunnel."
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Image courtesy of Gabriel Bouys/Agence France Presse/Getty Images.