Vanetta and her three children are on the brink of being evicted. Vanetta's hours at the diner where she works have been drastically reduced, so much so that she's really struggling to make ends meet. In desperation, she makes the decision to rob two women with her boyfriend. Thankfully, no one is hurt, but it's still a serious crime, and Vanetta and her boyfriend are charged and brought to trial.
On the morning of her sentencing hearing, Vanetta gets her children out of bed, feeds them, and clothes them, the same as she does every morning. On the face of it, everything appears perfectly normal, though of course it's no such thing. Vanetta irons the clothes she's going to wear in court that day—a black sweater and matching slacks. It's as if she's preparing for a job interview rather than a court appearance that could see her go to jail.
Unfortunately for Vanetta, that's exactly what happens. Despite an impassioned plea on her behalf by a public defender, the judge sentences Vanetta to eighty-one months in the state prison system. Although the judge acknowledges that poverty was a factor in Vanetta's committing the crime, he doesn't treat it as a mitigating factor when it comes to the sentencing. The judge's reasoning is that Vanetta committed the crime because she was poor. But she'll still be poor if he decides to let her go, so what's to say she won't do the exact same thing again? He feels, then, that he has no choice but to send Vanetta to jail.