Is Cameron Douglas’ Life in Danger?

by ANTHONY PAPA

Cameron Douglas – who recently received a reduced sentence (from 10 years to five) in exchange for his cooperation – is now likely to face a very tough time in prison. It was reported yesterday that the information given to authorities by Douglas resulted in his suppliers being charged with drug trafficking. Brothers Edquardo and David Escalera both face life sentences if convicted. Cameron, the son of actor Michael Douglas, is currently serving time at Lewisberg’s minimum security prison camp in Pennsylvania.

From my experience as someone who served 12 years in New York’s Sing Sing state prison – one of the most dangerous prisons in America – I know that Cameron Douglas is in a world of trouble. Once a prisoner is labeled as a "snitch," their life in prison suddenly changes and is in immediate danger. In prison a snitch is frowned upon and is at the bottom of the hierarchy of prison life. Until this point, it seemed that Douglas was living a pretty comfortable life in the camp at Lewisberg. Minimum security institutions have dormitory housing, a relatively low staff-to-inmate ratio, and limited or no perimeter fencing.

Douglas’s status will likely change as soon as his life is threatened. Once this happens, his entire world will turn upside down, and he will be transferred to protective custody (PC). Protective custody is used to protect victims and to reduce assaults and threats. The worst scenario will be that Douglas will leave his dorm-like minimum security environment for the safety of a cell.

In protective custody prisoners are confined in units that are separated from the general population and they spend an enormous amount of time (sometimes up to 23 hours a day) confined to a 8 x 10 cell in a separate housing unit. This takes a huge psychological toll on the imprisoned individual because of the existential nature of the punishment. You become fully aware of each moment and are left alone to contemplate your situation, which at times is overwhelming and often leads to suicidal tendencies.

These units are stand-alone, which means they contain everything needed to accommodate a prisoner needs. Security is super tight and prisoners are in constant observance of guards. Although Douglas will be safe from bodily harm, his time there will eventually take its toll on him and in all likelihood he will regret his decision to cooperate.

Cameron faced a mandatory minimum sentence in which the judge could not impose a sentence below that minimum unless he gave "substantial assistance" to the government in prosecuting his suppliers. So, in reality, he was put in this position by the criteria set by this country’s anti-drug laws – mandatory minimum sentencing and conspiracy provisions that have bred a culture of snitching.

The use of criminal informants in the U.S. justice system has become a way of life. Preliminary research indicates that up to 80% of all drug cases in the U.S. may be based on information provided by informants. Many individuals like Douglas have fallen prey to the reward of a reduced sentence in exchange for cooperation.

But in the end, the collaboration between Douglas and the justice system may have resulted in reducing his sentence, but it can also lead to tragic consequences for him. I hope this does not happen for the sake of Cameron and his family.

ANTHONY PAPA is the author of 15 Years to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom and manager of media relation for the Drug Policy Alliance. He can be reached at: anthonypapa123@yahoo.com 

    

 

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 03, 2015
Sal Rodriguez
How California Prison Hunger Strikes Sparked Solitary Confinement Reforms
Lawrence Ware
Leave Michael Vick Alone: the Racism and Misogyny of Football Fans
Dave Lindorff
Is Obama the Worst President Ever?
Vijay Prashad
The Return of Social Democracy?
Ellen Brown
Quantitative Easing for People: Jeremy Corbyn’s Radical Proposal
Paul Craig Roberts
The Rise of the Inhumanes: Barron, Bybee, Yoo and Bradford
Binoy Kampmark
Inside Emailgate: Hillary’s Latest Problem
Lynn Holland
For the Love of Water: El Salvador’s Mining Ban
Geoff Dutton
Time for Some Anger Management
Jack Rasmus
The New Colonialism: Greece and Ukraine
Norman Pollack
American Jews and the Iran Accord: The Politics of Fear
John Grant
Sorting Through the Bullshit in America
David Macaray
The Unbearable Lightness of Treaties
Chad Nelson
Lessig Uses a Scalpel Where a Machete is Needed
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy