FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction in Prison

by ANTHONY PAPA

An amicus brief was filed by the Drug Policy Alliance on behalf of a wide array of New York State’s and the nation’s leading medical and substance abuse treatment authorities on Thursday, May 3, in New York federal appeals court challenging what may be the longest-ever federal prison sentence imposed for the simple possession drugs for personal use behind bars. The unprecedented, nearly five year prison sentence for simple drug possession was meted out last year to Cameron Douglas, son of actor Michael Douglas.

As reported today by Jesse McKinley of the NY Times, Cameron Douglas who began abusing drugs at age 13 and who then got deeply hooked on heroin for many years, pled guilty in 2010 to participating in a drug distribution ring. He was sentenced to 60 months imprisonment for his conduct and remanded to federal prison where, despite his long-time problem with drug addiction, he was not given any drug treatment.

Last year Mr. Douglas relapsed on drugs while serving his prison sentence. He was caught with very small amounts of opioids for personal use, including a single dose of a medication used to treat heroin dependence that he had obtained without a prescription. Prison officials placed him in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for 11 months and denied him social visits with family and friends.

But the federal district court which imposed Mr. Douglas his original 60-month sentence wasn’t satisfied with these punishments, and nearly doubled Mr. Douglas’ sentence for his drug relapse by adding an additional 54 months to Mr. Douglas’ term.

Mr. Douglas’ attorneys have now appealed his new (54-month) sentence, noting that it is significantly longer than any sentence imposed in modern legal history for simple drug possession behind bars, and arguing that the judges wrongly departed from the federal Sentencing Guidelines in imposing this excessive prison term.

Notably, a wide array of New York State’s and the nation’s leading medical and substance abuse treatment authorities are supporting Mr. Douglas’ cause. The New York and California Societies of Addiction Medicine – representing the two most prominent organizations of addiction specialists in the country – and a host of other medical, public health and human rights organizations, along with prominent individual physicians and substance abuse researchers, filed a friend-of-the-court in support of Mr. Douglas’ appeal.

In their brief, the medical experts contend that Mr. Douglas’ drug relapse behind bars is not surprising, particularly given the fact that he, like so many other inmates suffering from addiction in American prisons and jails, are not provided any meaningful drug treatment during their incarceration.

The health experts claim that to sentence Mr. Douglas to an additional 54 months for his drug relapse – particularly in the absence of treatment — is not only counterproductive to Mr. Douglas’ health and goals for recovery, but is, inhumane. They argue that such a sentence is futile both as a means of deterring drug use and obedience with the law, and that Mr. Douglas’ medical conditions deserve adequate treatment, not incarceration sanctions.

“Tacking on more prison time for a person who is addicted to drugs because they relapse behind bars goes against fundamental principles of medicine, inflicts unnecessary suffering and undermines both safety and health,” notes the brief’s author, Daniel Abrahamson, Director of Legal Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Such a response only fuels the vicious cycle we see daily across the country of drug-dependent persons being imprisoned while sick, coming out sicker, and then returning to jail even quicker – at huge expense to everyone.”

The experts note the lack of adequate drug treatment in the nation’s prisons and jails, particularly for opioid-dependent persons, and urge corrections officials to remedy this situation as a critical step to breaking the cycle of addiction that affects the great majority of persons incarcerated in the U.S.

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 

Anthony Papa is the Manager of Media and Artist Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance and the author of This Side of Freedom: Life After Lockdown.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail