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Apr 21, 2010

Michael Douglas and wife, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones,
leave courtroom after Cameron Douglas's sentencing

(18 paragraphs, 5 links, signature block w/AIMI icon)  Many young people wrestle with emotional problems.  Actor Michael Douglas explained to a judge that his son does.  Cameron Douglas's emotional problems led him to a heroin dependency that will now cost him five years in prison, the court ruled Tuesday.  People with psychological problems frequently turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to “get their heads on straight.”  The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) reports that nearly two million full-time college students meet the medical criteria for substance abuse and dependence.  Most of them, like Cameron, began using drugs as teens.  But rather than treating them for drug dependency, hundreds of thousands of people are jailed on possession and trafficking charges.  Prison is a cruel, ineffective, and very expensive way to address such problems.  Below is an excerpt from a CASA report about the cost of America’s War on Drugs:

Substance abuse and addiction cost federal, state and local governments at least $467.7 billion in 2005 . . .  The CASA report found that of $373.9 billion in federal and state spending, 95.6 percent ($357.4 billion) went to shovel up the consequences and human wreckage of substance abuse and addiction; only 1.9 percent went to prevention and treatment, 0.4 percent to research, 1.4 percent to taxation and regulation, and 0.7 percent to interdiction.  (Access the full report at this link: )

The fact that less than 2% of the colossal War on Drugs price tag goes to prevention and treatment is disappointing but not surprising.  Immediately after the Civil War, the prison industrial complex arose to replace slavery and continue profits from America’s skin trade.  Many officials who make decisions about health care and criminal justice matters are prison investors.  Their stock portfolios improve by enacting tough-on-crime laws while seriously limiting funds for research and treatment opportunities for drug addiction and mental illness.  Consequently, 2.3 million people are presently incarcerated.  This gives the United States the distinction of imprisoning more people than any nation in world history.  Over two-thirds of incarcerations result from criminalizing mental illness and drug dependency and drove our prison costs to more than $50 billion annually.  Prison profiteers in public service have a major conflict of interest.  They ensure the success of their business interests by limiting resources for treatment that would reduce incarcerations, decrease crime, and restore scores of people with drug addictions and psychological problems to wholesome lives.

Many people know firsthand how hard it is to overcome bad habits like cigarette smoking or overeating.  Stress usually intensifies cravings for another cigarette or chocolate bar.  Likewise, people with drug addictions and/or mental health challenges are not improved by criminalizing their conditions and banishing them to prison cells.  Instead, they have a high recidivism rate and usually revolve in and out of “correctional” facilities because treatment is not prioritized.  Instead, addicts and mentally ill people are seemingly preserved untreated to become future prisoners of America.  This was demonstrated recently when inpatient treatment in mental hospitals and drug treatment centers was omitted from H.R.3200, the national health care reform bill that Congress passed. 

Middle-class and indigent families lack the finances to pay for treatment in private facilities, but public facilities continue to close across the country.  The hospital closures that began in the 1970’s when Medicaid was withdrawn for inpatient treatment continue to occur although treatment is more effective and financially prudent than imprisonment for addressing drug addiction and mental illness.  The nation’s best hope for remedy is to pass H.R.619, a congressional bill that was introduced in January 2009 by Rep. Eddie Johnson (D-TX) to amend Title XIX of the Social Security Act and resume Medicaid for mental hospital patients who qualify for assistance. 

Unfortunately, H.R. 619 has powerful opposition precisely because passing the bill would create treatment options that would negatively impact prison profits.  Police would have mental health facilities to deliver individuals to when they have a crisis rather than to jail, and many of them would actually get better, avoid crime, and never go or return to prison.  Whereas passing H.R.619 would benefit We the People, it would be devastating for prison profiteers.  Some municipalities have agreements with private prison companies that guarantee them a certain number of inmates.  Officials have quotas to fill and do not plan to be impeded by treating mentally ill people and drug users who are intended to populate the prisons.

This writer has much interference using online services to notify the public about H.R.619, the bill that would help decriminalize mental illness.  See more information about the secret congressional bill at this link at, where supporters can VOTE for the bill: - No reports about H.R.619 have been published by mainstream media, according to  That omission is very suspect since one in five Americans is estimated to have mental illness, and 1.25 million mentally ill people are already imprisoned.  That number is augmented by hundreds of thousands of other inmates who are not diagnosed with mental illness but are incarcerated like Cameron Douglas for crimes related to drug addiction.  Many such persons also have an underlying emotional problem that led them to drugs, just as Michael Douglas said his son has.

Considering who Cameron Douglas is, financial considerations likely did not prevent the young man from participating in a drug treatment program.  However, people with drug and alcohol dependencies and psychological problems frequently reject treatment, and it leads to their incarceration.  That is why drug courts and mental health courts are important.  The choice of whether to accept treatment is removed from defendants facing imprisonment, and judges can order them into treatment instead of prison if their criminal charges and backgrounds meet certain criteria.  Support for jail diversion programs is growing.  In fact, the Department of Justice recently invested significant sums in jail diversion programs and the Second Chance Act to monitor and treat people who wrestle with mental illness and/or drug addictions.  Some states, however, do not allow judges any discretion to use jail diversion programs rather than prison.  Instead, mandatory sentencing laws enacted by elected officials (who may be prison profiteers) preclude the judges’ ability to make allowances for extenuating circumstances like the emotional problems Michael Douglas described regarding his son, Cameron.

Members of Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill (AIMI) join TAC and 210,000 NAMI members in supporting H.R.619 to resume Medicaid insurance for mental hospitals.  We also advocate for all states to eliminate mandatory sentencing and three-strikes laws like New York did recently, repeal the death penalty like New Mexico, and continue to reduce the number of people sentenced to prison, especially regarding defendants with non-violent drug charges and the mentally ill. 

Below is an excerpt of a report on Cameron Douglas’ sentencing published April 20, 2010, by Reuters.

Michael Douglas's son sentenced to 5 years

(Reuters) - The son of Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison for possessing heroin and dealing large amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine out of a New York hotel room.

Cameron Douglas, 31, pleaded guilty to the charges in January, following his arrest last year at the trendy Gansevoort Hotel in Manhattan.

In court, Douglas apologized to his family for "this nightmare of my own making" and admitted to a long heroin addiction.

His father, Michael Douglas, wrote a letter to the judge asking for leniency. He said Cameron had battled with drugs since age 13.

"I have some idea of the pressure of finding your own identity with a famous father," said Douglas, whose own father is actor Kirk Douglas. "I'm not sure I can comprehend it with two generations to deal with."


The War on Drugs has had many casualties, like all wars.  Scores of police officers and drug users/dealers have been killed.  As with any war, there are innocent victims.  Thousands of family members, including children, mourn their dead, and thousands more must face life without their imprisoned parents, spouses, siblings, and offspring.  Many parents experience pain because their children were ensnared by drugs, and Michael Douglas is among them.  Added to the human suffering is the financial burden of conducting the War on Drugs. Like military conflicts, the expense drains resources needed to address other concerns.  It costs around $500 billion per year to ascertain and imprison those who violate drug laws.  There is no exit strategy for this war and no end in sight.  It seems prudent, therefore, to launch a sustained assault on the cause the problem instead of the people who have the problem.  CASA reports that 65 percent of all U.S. inmates meet the medical criteria for substance abuse addiction, but only 11 percent receive any treatment.  Obviously, it is time to fight drug addiction and mental illness with treatment, not with bullets and prison terms.

Statistics, links to government and academic studies, and other data regarding the War on Drugs are available in the website at the link below: (hard facts, real stories, informed experts) 

May God strengthen Cameron and his family as they endure the next four years of his sentence.  He was credited with one year for time served.

Mary Neal
Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill (AIMI)
P.O. Box 153, Redan, GA 30074

THING THEY EXPERIENCE.  Please join our effort to decriminalize
mental illness.  No one deserves to be punished for having a disability.

Thanks in advance for voting at for H.R.619.




Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.


Mary Neal
, 5, 2 children
Atlanta, GA, USA
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