Michael Douglas's Son Faces More Time Than a Murderer or a Rapist for a Nonviolent Drug Charge
Cameron -- the son of Academy Award winner Michael Douglas -- took a guilty plea this week for dealing drugs that will land him in prison for at least 10 years to a maximum of life. This stems from a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigation based on information from unidentified informants who were methamphetamine users and drug dealers. In other words, these rats gave Cameron up to save their own hides. In exchange for agreeing to be cooperating witnesses against Cameron, they were allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges.
I am mad as hell! Why? In the 1980s, I faced a similar fate that led to my 15-to-life sentence for a first-time, nonviolent drug sale in New York. So I know too well the routine the DEA went through to rope Douglas into a corner forcing him to take a plea deal. They scared the living crap out of him, telling him he would never see the light of day if he went to trial. Why would anyone in their right mind plead out to a 10-year minimum sentence? In the U.S., this type of behavior is standard in procuring drug convictions of low-level drug offenders who wind up doing more time than a murderer or rapist.
A good friend of Cameron Douglas told me that Douglas has been hooked on heroin for the last several years. Why else would he compel his girlfriend to bring over a toothbrush box containing 20 bags of dope while he was under house arrest several months ago? He needs drug treatment, not a decade or more of hard time in prison.
The U.S. is obsessed with punishing individuals like Douglas. I think his imprisonment is immoral and counterproductive to public safety. By locking up Douglas and those like him, our government is wasting resources that could otherwise be used to stop violent crime.
Today, there are over 500,000 Americans locked up for nonviolent drug law violations. The cost of incarcerating such individuals is draining state and federal budgets and producing idiotic solutions by politicians to make up for its burgeoning costs -- like the recent cuts in health care, education, and other social service programs.
It will cost tax payers an estimated $45,000 a year to keep him in prison. His family and friends will no doubt mourn their loss while Douglas rots away in a federal prison for being a nonviolent drug addict.
Should we treat drug addiction as a criminal matter or a medical problem? For most people, treatment is a 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 affordable solution for the individual and the community.
Thanks to the war on drugs, and especially mandatory minimum sentencing policies, average drug offenders like Cameron Douglas are sentenced to extraordinary amounts of time in prison. We need to end these draconian drug laws by offering drug-addicted individuals treatment instead of prison.
January 31, 2010 |
Anthony Papa, author of 15 To Life: How I Painted My Way To Freedom, is a communications specialist for the Drug Policy Alliance.