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Prison vs. Rehab: What Really Works

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Is being in prison going to make Cameron Douglas stop craving, using or selling drugs? Will he restructure his life so he can live without crystal meth? I think not.

His father Michael Douglas says Cameron has been using drugs since he was 13 years old. At 31, that's more than half his life. His inability to stay sober for any length of time is not going to be deterred by being behind bars.

He needs treatment with his incarceration, otherwise he will just walk out--still imprisoned by the disease of addiction--and repeat the cycle like hundreds of thousands of other inmates who come out, only to go back into the system as repeat offenders.

We need treatment alternatives to jail time, with access to adequate drug rehabs as sentencing. We can punish people for the crimes committed to get the drugs, but that's not the solution for treating the mental illness associated with the offenses.

Unlike a lot of parolees who walk out of prison with nothing and nowhere to go, Cameron Douglas will have resources and family, but that doesn't mean he won't still be craving drugs and resort to the same behavior that got him behind bars in the first place. The disease isn't going to give Cameron a break, and respect him more because he's the son of the rich and famous.

It's wonderful that his father is taking some responsibility for his son's drug use, but now we as the taxpayers have the burden of taking care of him along with almost every other inmate in jails across America who has used and continues to use drugs daily--despite being behind bars. More than half of the prison population is addicted.

25 years ago, I was shooting heroin and cocaine and had been since I was a teenager. I ended up in jail. The judge offered me prison or rehab. I chose rehab and was locked up for a year. Treatment saved this convicted felon's life, and that is why I am so passionate about the need for prison reform for recovery. I would have wound up a career criminal or dead if my family and the courts had not intervened to stop my insanity.

Whether Cameron Douglas will ever be able to fully right the wrongs he has done to the people he sold drugs to, or the hurt it's inflicted on their families remains to be seen, but he should be given a chance at recovery in order to possibly become a truly productive member of society.

Families must work alongside the very prosecutors, court officials and legislators charged with putting their loved ones away, petitioning them for mandatory court-ordered treatment for drugs and alcohol as their prison sentence. No less than one to two years of treatment is essential.

It may be sobering to be in jail, but being locked up doesn't ensure real sobriety.

Treatment is also a less expensive cost to the taxpayer. For those like Cameron Douglas with financial resources---let them pay for their rehab--and for the others, rehabilitation would cost a quarter of what it does for keeping them in prison.

The war on substance abuse is fought successfully by helping the individual become drug free. Sound treatment is the only weapon we share in the fight against drugs. We support the illegal drug market when we send users and dealers back on the streets without treating the problem.