Cameron Douglas, son of actor Michael Douglas, is serving an extended sentence for drug distribution and heroin possession. He is 33 years old and began injecting heroin daily in his mid 20s. He has not received treatment in prison, and according to this NY Times Article on 5/21/12, “is a textbook example of someone suffering from untreated opioid dependence [for whom] more prison time would do nothing to solve his underlying problems.”
Treating any illness or disease with punishment is not the answer. Sure there are plenty of examples where drug dealers should be in prison. Especially when violence is involved. Still, if someone turns to violence or drug dealing or prostitution to feed an addiction there should be medical treatment as part of their reform.
The State of California spent a lot of time and money to change their name from “The California Department of Corrections” to add ” . . and Rehabilitation” to the end. It appears that all they did was change the name. What changed behind the walls?
According to the CDCR website, on June 1st of this year, “Twenty-seven inmates from California State Prison-Solano today received certifications that will eventually enable them to counsel other inmates in addiction treatment programs for alcohol and drug abuse.” This is something; a start.
The State Prison Corcoran is supposed to work with substance abuse treatment, but it would appear that the availability of this is spotty and the success of these programs is uncertain. Opportunities for rehabilitation are primarily voluntary programs the prisoners can choose to join.
From what I hear, getting drugs in prison is easier than getting a steak. The Times article about Douglas explained that Douglas got his incarceration duration extended because people inside the prison supplied him drugs and he was caught with them. Heroin. Suboxone.
Addicts have an illness and to put things in perspective, think about what a cancer patient might do to obtain life saving drugs if they were denied. Would you sell your body to survive? When someone is deeply addicted, they have lost control of the ability to “just say no” and all you need to do is watch the withdrawal video of my son to understand that the drug addiction is controlling the body.
No addict ever said, “Hey, I’ll smoke that joint; snort that line; or take that pill and if I’m really good at it I’ll be addicted and robbing a liquor store within the year.”
These people have a medical condition that is being ignored, and this is what has motivated a group of physicians to file a brief on behalf of Douglas.
Prison systems could cut costs dramatically and reduce the rate of return offenders if they took the word “Rehabilitation” seriously and segregated addicts into treatment centers that were secure without the need to put them in the general population of murderers and rapists.
Rehabilitate or Incarcerate? Perhaps a combination of both for addicts who have broken the law is the answer because either we treat the wound or we pour salt in it.
This post was reprinted with permission from Bradley V. DeHaven, author and activist on the epidemic abuse of prescription drugs. Mr. DeHaven contributes heartfelt experience strength and hope as a Parent Pathway expert.