In a recent interview in Britain's Event Magazine, academy award winning actor Michael Douglas vowed to fight for a complete overhaul of America's legal system. This comes on the heels of his son Cameron losing his appeal, and affirming his nine and a half year sentence for drug charges.
The story of Cameron Douglas is a sad one. Last April, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his conviction and refused to overturn it after he was caught with a small amount of drugs for personal use while in prison. Cameron is likely to stay in prison until the year 2018. In January of 2010, Southern District Court Judge Richard M. Berman sentenced Cameron to 60 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release. Cameron was facing a ten-year mandatory sentence but managed to knock off five years of the sentence by cooperating with the government.
Cameron, a long time substance abuser, relapsed and began using drugs again while in prison. Instead of getting the treatment for his addiction which would have addressed his craving for drugs, Cameron did what many other imprisoned substance abusers do -- purchase the needed drugs they use from other prisoners. Judge Berman could not believe there are drugs in the prisons of the United States. And because of Cameron's relapse, he hit him with an unbelievable additional sentence of four and a half years, despite the prosecution's request for just an additional two and a half years.
The way it was handled deviated from the typical way prisons deal with prisoners who are found with drugs. Most of the time it is handled administratively within the prison and the prisoner does not get charged with a crime like Douglas has. My take on this is that they made an example of him because of his famous father, actor Michael Douglas.
Cameron appealed his new sentence as excessive and unjust. A friend of the court brief was submitted on his behalf by the Drug Policy Alliance and a wide array of leading medical and substance abuse treatment authorities supporting Cameron's appeal. But that appeal was denied.
In the Event Magazine interview, Michael Douglas said that he was left distraught after his son lost his appeal and he is now determined to campaign to help change the way addicts are being treated behind bars. He went on to say "I have an issue with the court and prison system, about how we treat nonviolent drug addicts. His punishment is too harsh. I want to get involved in working out reforms. I know a lot about it now. Cameron got the most severe sentence in the history of the US penal system. It's just unrealistic. My son deserved to get arrested, but not to be harshly punished for obtaining drugs in prison."
Anthony Papa, author of 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom, is Manager of Media Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.