Cameron Douglas, his former fellow prisoners on surviving prison: Part 4

Douglas spent two years in solitary confinement in a federal prison and talks about how hard it was to miss his grandmother's funeral, find out about his father's throat cancer and finally get sober.
9:37 | 10/23/19

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Transcript for Cameron Douglas, his former fellow prisoners on surviving prison: Part 4
Reporter: A child of privilege remembers the ten-minute drive from his old world to the radically new one. His name is now beneath a prison number, though his lawyers did manage to get him a sentence of only five years. And he starts out in minimum security, quickly learning prisoners can get almost anything. You write, "Steaks, lobster, vodka, prostitutes, heroin, good heroin." Drugs and alcohol are prevalent in every prison. Reporter: He bulks up, gets tattoos and says he romanticizes himself as a drug-using prison rebel, like the ones in the movies. He manages to sneak off prison grounds for sex with an old girlfriend and then romances one of his female lawyers. He just seemed so broken. Reporter: She's talking about it on Huffington post. About a year in, he is caught flagrantly using heroin. A furious judge hauls him back in court and tells him he has never encountered a defendant who has so recklessly, wantonly, flagrantly, criminally destroyed opportunity in his life. That judge brings the hammer down. My sentence was just doubled from five to ten years. Overwhelmed, I pass out. Reporter: You said you passed out. My body shut down. Reporter: Did you wonder how you were going to endure it? I did. Reporter: He's about to be moved from one tough prison to the next. Over the years, so many times, we've covered life inside prison walls. When Cameron Douglas walks into a new prison, he's an inmate trying to gauge the danger in the faces there. Will I be killed? I'm just waiting for it. Someone's going to stab me. Why wouldn't they? Reporter: He wonders who's Aryan brotherhood, who's with the Crips, who's dangerously psychotic? Two veteran inmates are watching and thinking they know who he is. It's Charlie sheen? Looked like Charlie sheen. Reporter: This is Mo taguri, a decade as a drug addict and in prison for nine years for dealing meth. Talib Shakir, serving 25 years for second degree murder a robbery gone wrong when he was 17. They know how treacherous it can be for the new guy, the one other inmates are calling "Hollywood." The first thing you do in prison is survive. And you have to figure that out Yeah. Reporter: So Mo, Talib and an unlikely team of allies start to gather around him. Men who know all about the cycle of addiction and self-loathing in their lives and tell him you can lose yourself in a rich family, too. I think we self-medicate ourself with things like that to avoid responsibility. And to avoid the things, you know, that are expected of us. With who he is and who his family is. If you can't live up to it, then you feel like a failure. I learned that despite where you may come from in life, that we all share something. Every Sunday, we would walk the track for two hours, at least, and have conversations. Family issues, depression, anxiety, hopes, dreams, aspirations. We would talk about everything. A lot of self-doubt. There was a lot of guilt. There was a lot of shame. Reporter: And his prison friends are there for him, even when his Tim per and immature recklessness land him in solitary confinement, over and over again. That little cement box, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Reporter: Boxes like these, such kating little cells where there's only screaming, the sound of toilets flushing. One phone call a month and all that empty time. He'll spend a total of two years. To keep from going insane, your mind has to figure out a way to adapt. Reporter: He writes that for the first time, he created a discipline, a routine. It was reading, writing, working out and meditating. Reporter: Each morning, reciting from the famous poem "Invictus." "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul." And something else. For the first time since he was 13 years old, Cameron Douglas has long stretches without drugs. Was it prison that turned you around? It was getting away from addiction and allowing me to begin to see things more clearly. And then, you know, the constant love and support of my family never giving up on me. You know, it's enough to make you want to be a decent human being. Reporter: He's so grateful for his mother, diandra, who drives 950 miles every two weeks to see him. His stepmother, Catherine zeta-jones, comes, too, bringing his young half-brother and sister to hug their big brother. And that grandmother who never gave up on him, constantly writing sweet notes to prison. The one you saw in that movie, "It runs in the family." Look granny, I'm sorry. Oh, that's all right honey. Reporter: She becomes ill. He's not allowed to leave prison to say goodbye. What was she like? I'm going to have to come back to this one. Reporter: Okay. I would have liked her to be able to see where I'm at now and where things are headed, you know, it would have made her happy. Reporter: And there will be another lesson about how fragile life can be. His powerful father has announced on "The David Letterman show" that he has stage four throat cancer. So, I've got cancer, found out about it three weeks ago. I feel like I want to do something for you. Can I do something for you? Ah, give me a hug. All right, my gosh. Reporter: Cameron got the news on the prison grounds. A guy walked up, and he said, "Hollywood." I said, "Yeah?" He said, "I'm really sorry to hear about your father." Reporter: When Michael Douglas finishes the brutal chemotherapy, he comes to see his boy. And I've never seen somebody's body change so drastically. I mean, it's a real -- it's a real fight for your life. Reporter: You said it was as if a gust of wind could blow him away. And then, you know, making it in to see me, you know? Reporter: All around the two of them, other prisoners who do not have family at their side. The times where we would go for family visits and there were kids there, there were prisoners there who never see anybody. Nobody comes to visit them. Reporter: Talib tells Cameron, let go of those fears and doubts. It's time to seize the lucky life he has. For me, I had lost my father. And during my term of incarceration, for me, my father was, like, my biggest -- he was my everything. And so, it just didn't make sense to me that, as someone who had a father, who wanted to be present, was supportive, to not extend the olive branch. Reporter: And there will be one more formidable visitor. The founder of that dynasty of tough Douglas men. 93-year-old Kirk Douglas travels 3,000 miles to see his grandson. First thing, he admires that muscled up body, including the triumph over the family joke, their spinally legs. We don't have legs. Reporter: Spartacus and those he didn't have. Skinny legs, skinny legs, sticks. Reporter: And Cameron will have a kind of surprise for them. The largest tattoos he got in prison. I was slightly shocked, you know? I just looked at him and I said, "I don't -- yeah, yeah." I -- yeah, I didn't know what to say. I was, like, stunned. I was stunned. Reporter: On the other side, his grandfather, who reacts with that famous grin. The grandfather who has made one plea to his grandson. Do you remember the sentence you quote him saying? "Do what you haveto do and make it home." Reporter: Find your way home. June 13th, 2016. Yeah. Yeah. Reporter: It's the day after seven years Cameron Douglas walks out of prison. And I'm outside the walls. The blue sky is cloudless. Mom is running toward me. Reporter: He's memorized the words of that poem he will need for the next part of his life.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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