by corinne carey
Late Tuesday, following the arrest of Noelle Bush, daughter of Florida Governor Jeb Bush, for possession of crack cocaine, the Orlando District Attorney’s Narcotics Evictions office forwarded information about her arrest to The People of the State of Florida, demanding that The People serve the Bush family with an eviction notice to vacate their residence in government-subsidized housing.
A spokesperson for the Orlando DA stated that under federal public housing regulations that were upheld by the Supreme Court this past Spring in Rucker v. Davis, eviction of Bush and his entire family is the appropriate sanction.
The People served the Bush family with a Notice to Vacate their residence because a member of the household committed a drug offense.
A spokesperson for The People stated that while the loss of the Bush's family home is a drastic remedy, "we need drastic remedies to address the scourge of drugs that is ruining the lives of our children throughout the State of Florida."
Jeb Bush has maintained that while he knew his daughter struggled with drug use in the past, she is currently facing her problem by participating in drug treatment. Speaking to the Associated Press, he said: "This is a private issue as it relates to my daughter and myself and my wife," he said. "The road to recovery is a rocky one for a lot of people that have this kind of problem. I don't have any details about what happened. I just found out."
The People's spokesperson responded: "We need to remind the Governor that it wasn't he that took steps to address his daughter's drug problem but rather the court system that mandated her into treatment.”
An advocate for housing rights in Florida pointed out that Jeb Bush could not possibly have known that his daughter was still using, and that to evict the entire family would be unfair. But The People's spokesperson stated that according to the Supreme Court’s decision in Rucker, Bush's ignorance of his daughter's continued drug use was no excuse.
This is, of course, a fictional account of the events that would have followed Noelle Bush’s arrest if the Bush family were poor people living in a different kind of government subsidized housing in Florida.
This past Spring, the Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, upheld federal regulations which call for eviction of entire families from public housing when one member of the household commits a drug offense-whether or not the offense took place in the public housing apartment or not, and whether or not the family members were aware of any drug activity at all.
Jeb Bush is completely right when he maintains that his daughter’s struggle with her drug use and with the criminal justice system are private matters for he and his family to deal with, and that “the road to recovery is a rocky one.” Recognition of problem drug use as a private matter to be addressed with compassion, not punishment, and an understanding of the high likelihood of relapse is a common sense approach favored by most professionals who are successful in their work with drug users. Unfortunately, policymakers like Bush himself and his brother George W. Bush’s administration,
have not chosen to deal with the problems caused by drug addiction this way.
Instead, state and federal lawmakers continue to adopt punitive policies which deny people struggling with addiction financial aid for school, welfare, public housing, licenses, and employment. This country’s current drug policies punish drug users who relapse during treatment instead of calling for an examination of why treatment programs fail nearly two-thirds of their patients.
It is clear that Noelle Bush is having a difficult time remaining drug-free, even in a rehabilitation facility where she knows that if she uses drugs she could be incarcerated. Shouldn’t we be asking why efforts to “treat” her addiction aren’t working, instead of putting her in jail?
If the State of Florida actually did enforce federal regulations to evict the Bush’s, the only difference between the Governor’s family and a family living in a housing project would be that the eviction of the Bush family would not result in their homelessness, as it does all across the country for hundreds of families who grapple both with poverty and addiction.
Corinne A. Carey, Esq.,Director, Harm Reduction Law Project, Urban Justice Center, 666 Broadway, 10th Floor, New York, New York 10012, firstname.lastname@example.org