A Letter to Barbara Bush
from the Mothers of Drug War Prisoners
Dear Mrs. Bush,
In recent weeks, your son, Texas
Governor George W. Bush, has faced questions regarding his youthful
drug use. Recently, you responded to the media onslaught regarding
the matter, saying that possible illicit drug use by your son
or any other candidate for political office in their youth is
largely 'irrelevant.' You asked the media to stop 'trashing'
We are mothers too, and we understand your maternal instinct
to defend your son. We agree that a person should not have their
integrity questioned, nor their future put in jeopardy, simply
because of a youthful indiscretion involving an illicit substance.
Young people, we all know, are prone to disregard risks to their
health and safety. This is especially true when a young person
is already abusing a drug like alcohol, as your son has bravely
acknowledged doing in his own youth.
Despite our sympathy for your position, we respectfully believe
that Governor Bush's implied past drug use, and his views about
it, are extremely relevant for evaluating his sense of fairness
and justice. This is a different question from whether his drug
use, if any, is by itself a disqualification from being president.
We, too, do not think it is a disqualification.
You see, our boys also committed 'youthful indiscretions.' But
in their cases, the prosecutors and courts called them 'felonies.'
They are each serving sentences of a decade or more (some far
more) for their poor choices. But those bad choices didn't have
to ruin their lives, or the lives of their families. Most young
people mature, including those who act foolishly and self-destructively
by using drugs. Most go on to become productive citizensjust
like your son.
Today, there are nearly 500,000 men and women serving time in
America's prisons and jails for drug law offenses - overwhelmingly
low-level, nonviolent offenses. Incarcerating these men and women
costs taxpayers more than $10 billion annually. Most of these
prisoners are poor, and increasingly non-white.
Last year, more than 700,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana
possession alone. These young people cannot apply for any job
without disclosing their own 'youthful indiscretions,' because
their indiscretions became criminal records that are permanent.
Many can never vote again, much less dream of running for public
Youthful drug use, an issue that you and your son both claim
is 'irrelevant' to the governor's personal history, has been
made permanently relevant to us by the drug polices of the federal
government and the 50 states, including Texas. Our sons will
have no second chances.
Mrs. Bush, we suggest it is time that you have a mother-to-son
talk with George Jr. Every mother wants her children to succeed
and be healthy and happy. As mothers, we teach our children that
equal protection under the law insures them that they can not
be unfairly held back by accidents of birth, race, disability,
class, gender, etc. Equal opportunity applies to all kids, even
those who make youthful mistakes.
Please tell your son that not every child in America grew up
with the many advantages that he has enjoyed. Share with him
the reality that without the advantages of position and class
- access to excellent attorneys, adequate educational and employment
opportunities, etc.-hundreds of thousands of young men and former
young men sit in our nation's prisons; many in Texas, many for
nonviolent crimes. The essence of these crimes is that they were
young and reckless, that they lacked faith in themselves or in
their economic opportunities.
Please remind him that hundreds of thousands of mothers, wives
and children cry themselves to sleep at night, hoping and praying
to live long enough to see their loved ones free. Please ask
your son to promise you that if he becomes president, he will
think long and hard about the injustices of our nation's longest
war - the 'war on drugs.'
We know in our hearts that you are profoundly proud of your children,
Mrs. Bush. Perhaps you can convince George W. that if he becomes
president he should give loving mothers, just like you, another
chance to rekindle pride and hope in their children.
Mothers of Drug War Prisoners:
Marianne Bassett, Mattapoisett, Mass.; Susan Bobby, Valparaiso,
Ind.; Diane Muscoreil, Wilson, N.Y.; Virginia Traylor, Duncanville,
Texas; Nancy Wall, Merrit Island, Fla.; Carol A. Walt, Vista,