Cameron Douglas is free! Well, almost free. It is reported that he was released to a federal half-way house in Brooklyn after serving 7 years. So in reality he has one foot in prison and the other foot out of prison. I recently have been in contact with him and he seems to be doing well. He is out in the free world for over a month now. Cameron is working and adjusting to life and I know he wants to write about his prison experience just as he did when he wrote an op-ed here in the Huffington Post. As someone who spent 12 years behind bars on a nonviolent drug offense, I know returning to society after serving a long time in prison is not easy. I just wrote about this subject in my new book "This Side of Freedom: Life after Clemency.
I wrote the book because I wanted to offer insight and encouragement to those coming home, like Cameron. Carrying the stigma of being an ex-offender is often debilitating, from being denied employment and housing, to not knowing how to establish healthy relationships, life becomes exceedingly difficult. In addition, maintaining that freedom is no easy task while wrestling with the haunting memories of past imprisonment.
Below is an excerpt from Chapter 14 titled "Cameron Douglas" of my new memoir "This Side of Freedom:Life after Clemency:
One of the biggest celebrity drug bust stories of all time came about when Cameron Douglas the son of academy award winning actor Michael Douglas got arrested by a multi-task force law enforcement team headed by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). The DEA had existed for more than 40 years but Congress has rarely scrutinized the agency, its actions, or its $2 billion budget. Little attention has been given to its role in fueling mass incarceration, racial disparities, the surveillance state, and other drug war problems. The failure to exercise oversight has led to questionable enforcement practices, numerous scandals and human rights abuses, and open defiance of laws requiring decisions be based on scientific evidence.
The DEA had been watching Cameron for 3 years and had built a watertight case against him for drug dealing, which included large amounts of meth and cocaine through the mail via Fed-ex. This compelled Douglas to seek a plea agreement for his cooperation against his suppliers. What really got my interest in his case was why did the watch him for three years? I figured that they waited a long time in order to build a very solid case against him because he was the son of a rich and famous movie star. The impact of arresting him for selling drugs would be a media goldmine for the government in their ability to send their message of zero tolerance drug policy to the population of America.
After researching the facts of the case I found that Cameron Douglas was not the drug kingpin the DEA painted him to be. Instead I found out that he was just a troubled 32-year-old hooked on drugs since he was 13 years old. It was at this point I decided to defend Cameron and show that he was a prime example of the abuse DEA has been involved in. Douglas was facing a stiff 10-year mandatory sentence under federal guidelines. I thought it was absolutely absurd to lock him up for that much time when it was plain to see he was a drug addict who needed treatment not incarceration. I began to write a series of articles supporting him on my Huffington Post blog. The first piece was titled "Michael Douglas' Son Should Not Go to Prison." Life imitating art always intrigues me I declared. Michael Douglas who starred in Traffic, the Academy-Award-winning film about the drug war in America, now faced a real life situation similar to the role he played. In the film Michael Douglas played the United States Drug Czar whose daughter becomes addicted to heroin. Throughout the film, he struggles dealing with his daughter's drug addiction and the futility of the drug war.
In real life Cameron Douglas, got arrested by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) in a sting operation for possession of methamphetamines with the intent distribute in New York City. It was not the first brush with the law for Cameron who had several arrests for cocaine possession and a 1996 bust for drunk driving. Reports also pointed out the good possibility that he had a severe drug problem. The role of drugs and drug addiction loom large in our society. The question I pose is should Cameron Douglas be put in prison or should he be able to seek drug treatment instead? Treatment is a valid vehicle for fighting the demons of addiction, and an effective alternative to the government's use of incarceration and punitive measures in response to low-level, nonviolent drug law offenses stemming from addiction.
According to Justice Department statistics, the U.S. holds a firm lead in maintaining the most prisoners of any country in the world -- now at 2.3 million and rising. There are an estimated 500,000 drug offenders in prison. Additionally, hundreds of thousands are incarcerated for drug-related violations of parole and probation, as well as for other crimes related to drug addiction. Criminal justice experts attribute the exploding U.S. prison population to harsh sentencing laws and record numbers of drug law offenders entering the system, many of whom have substance abuse problems.
Again, I asked the question, should we treat drug addiction as a criminal matter or a medical problem? For most people, treatment is much more effective way to overcome addiction, yet our prisons are full of drug-addicted individuals. Nonviolent drug offenders should be given an opportunity to receive treatment, not jail time, for their drug use. This would be a more effective and much more affordable solution for the individual and the community. Addiction affects tens of millions of people around the world. For most, it fills a void in their lives and becomes a crippling crutch. How best to treat addiction is a serious question we need to explore. Rich or poor, young or old, addiction has no boundaries - but the drug war does. Our 40-plus-year war on drugs has actually stifled the open debate society should be having about addiction and how best to deal with it.
I have always advocated the fact that we should give Cameron Douglas the drug treatment he needs instead of imprisonment. Why do I say this? I too faced a similar situation. Instead of treatment, I received a 15 year to life sentence under the Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York State. I was granted clemency by Governor George Pataki in 1997 after serving 12 years in prison for a first time non-violent drug sale. It was a waste of valuable tax dollars and human life to send me to prison for all those years. Instead of demonizing addicted individuals and sending them to prison, we need an alternative approach. Let's shift the focus from criminalization in drug policy and support a public health model. Not sending Cameron to prison would be a good example of taking a step in that direction. It's time to treat addiction for what it is, a medical problem, not a criminal one.
Soon after the piece was published, I was contacted by email from a girl who described herself as Cameron Douglas's friend. She told me she had read my article on Cameron and sent it to his mother Diandra, who was divorced from Michael Douglas. At that point I got Cameron's contact information from her and sent a letter to Cameron along with a copy of my book "15 to Life." In my letter, I told Cameron to hang in there and to keep his faith. Several weeks later, I got a response from him.
I knew he was going through hell and was getting deeper into the trap of the prison labyrinth. His downward spin had been a continuous disaster with one bad drama after another...