Michael Douglas got a well deserved Emmy for his performance as Liberace in Steven Soderbergh's swan song, Behind the Candleabra. At the end of his acceptance speech, he made a reference to his 34 year-old son, Cameron, who is serving a drug use sentance, with two full years in 23-hour solitary confinent.
He elaborated backstage:
If you happen to have a slip, this for a prisoner who is not violent … they punish you....In my son's case, he has spent almost two years in solitary confinement, and right now I'm being told I cannot see him for two years. It's been over a year now, and I'm questioning the system. Obviously, at first I was disappointed with my son, but I've reached a point now where I'm very disappointed with the system.
The next day, Sabhbh Walshe of The Guardian, agreed with him, and drove the point home in her analysis:
People may have little sympathy for Cameron Douglas, the poor little rich kid who had it all and couldn't handle any of it. He did break the law numerous times by dealing drugs to feed his habit and deserved to be sanctioned for that. It's reasonable to assume also that if he had come from a poor minority background, he may have received an even harsher initial sentence and no one would have been writing newspaper articles about him or calling out to him during high profile award ceremonies. Still his case deserves attention as it typifies the stupidity of the war on drugs that has caused America's prison population to explode while doing almost nothing to eradicate drug use in our society.
I can add my two cents and say that Mr. Douglss and Ms. Walshe are absolutely correct.
The last time I was called for jury duty, I spent seven of the most depressing hours of my life watching white lawyers, judges, court officers and jurors, busily administering the drug laws of the commonwealth of Massachusetts. All the defendants and their families were sad, poor persons of color, who were going to rot in prison and have their futures wrecked because poor, sad, addicted poor people use illegal drugs. When I was finally called to explain my unwillingness to serve on a jury, I told the judge I considered the drug laws of this nation to be close to the classic definition of insanity. We are doing the same things, over and over again, and expecting a different result.
Drug addiction is a medical problem, and drug dealing is a function of the poverty and lack of opportunities that's endemic in this country. Our answer to this social pathology? Lock up one third of the young men of color in this country, incarcerate more people than any other nation on earth, create a vast, corrupt and wasteful prison industrial complex, and continue this madness year after year, as the problem gets worse! Yes, Mr. Douglas was right to address this at the Emmys.