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

May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
Michael McKinley
Australia-as-Concierge: the Need for a Change of Occupation
William Hawes
Where Are Your Minds? An Open Letter to Thomas de Maiziere and the CDU
Steve Early
“Corporate Free” Candidates Move Up
Fariborz Saremi
Presidential Elections in Iran and the Outcomes
Dan Bacher
The Dark Heart of California’s Water Politics
Alessandra Bajec
Never Ending Injustice for Pinar Selek
Rob Seimetz
Death By Demigod
Jesse Jackson
Venezuela Needs Helping Hand, Not a Hammer Blow 
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
L. Ali Khan
I’m a Human and I’m a Cartoon
May 22, 2017
Diana Johnstone
All Power to the Banks! The Winners-Take-All Regime of Emmanuel Macron
Robert Fisk
Hypocrisy and Condescension: Trump’s Speech to the Middle East
John Grant
Jeff Sessions, Jesus Christ and the Return of Reefer Madness
Nozomi Hayase
Trump and the Resurgence of Colonial Racism
Rev. William Alberts
The Normalizing of Authoritarianism in America
Frank Stricker
Getting Full Employment: the Fake Way and the Right Way 
Jamie Davidson
Red Terror: Anti-Corbynism and Double Standards
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, Sweden, and Continuing Battles
Robert Jensen
Beyond Liberal Pieties: the Radical Challenge for Journalism
Patrick Cockburn
Trump’s Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His Crisis at Home
Angie Beeman
Gig Economy or Odd Jobs: What May Seem Trendy to Privileged City Dwellers and Suburbanites is as Old as Poverty
Colin Todhunter
The Public Or The Agrochemical Industry: Who Does The European Chemicals Agency Serve?
Jerrod A. Laber
Somalia’s Worsening Drought: Blowback From US Policy
Michael J. Sainato
Police Claimed Black Man Who Died in Custody Was Faking It
Clancy Sigal
I’m a Trump Guy, So What?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail