American Violet: Docu of Extraordinary Courage of One Mother Forced to Choose between Her Children and her Principles

In November 2000, just days before the national elections days, heavily armed police in rural Texas raided their town’s low income housing project.

Of the 30 people arrested that day, one was an impoverished 24 year-old single mother of four. Let’s call her Dee. Dee was charged as a drug dealer.

Inspired by this heart-rending true story and by painfully similar stories across the country, “American Violet” is a tale of extraordinary personal courage–the story of a mother forced to choose between her children and her principles – a mother who fights to defend both.

Dee was offered a plea bargain.  As is almost everyone arrested in America. In Dee’s case, her choice was simple.  Either plead guilty to a crime she didn’t commit and leave the fetid, overcrowded Texas prison as a convicted felon or, stay and fight the government, risking more than a decade in prison and her children being hurled into the state’s foster care system.

According to the production notes, the U.S. has the world’s largest prison population, more than Russia, and more than China,  a country with over four times our population.  Over two million Americans are in prison.  More than 90% of these convicts accepted a plea bargain.  They never faced a jury of their peers because in our country we do not adjudicate cases, we dispose of them. Vote-seeking tough-on-crime prosecutors fill for-profit prisons with plea bargain convictions.  Thirteen million Americans are convicted felons.   Most pled guilty because prosecutors made the risk of fighting the government and losing almost unbearably high.

Convicted felons lose federal benefits like food stamps, Medicare and Medicaid benefits, housing subsidies and Pell grants.  In many states they also lose the right to vote – for example, millions were unable to vote in the 2000 election.  And, having pled guilty, the convicted and their children suffer together, left with only the poorest of prospects.  Few voices rise in defense of convicted felons.

But, sometimes in the darkest of circumstances, a voice emerges to inspire us all. Scared, lonely, worried for her children and overwhelmed by the power of her prosecutors, Dee still refused to plead guilty to something she didn’t do.  She gambled her life to stand for American values as she understood them.  Her courage inspired others to rally to her side.