Review of The Sentence

Review of The Sentence written and directed by Rudy Valdez
Rating ****

This site is full of stories about our broken criminal justice system. This excellent HBO documentary gives an up close and personal look at mandatory sentencing through the eyes of one family. Cindy Shank is a mother of three when the police arrest her on drug conspiracy charges. Cindy is not a drug dealer. She has nothing to do with drug dealing, but she was the girlfriend of a man who did.

The police arrest Cindy’s boyfriend and uncover drugs, money, and weapons in the apartment they shared. Although Cindy was not involved in the drug business, she had knowledge of its existence. In that respect she is guilty. In a perfect world maybe she should have turned her boyfriend over to the police. This is not a perfect world.

The police offer Cindy a plea deal of thirteen years. She declines. They come looking for her eight years after the fact and charge her with conspiracy. Why they felt compelled to do this I have no idea. Cindy was living a perfectly normal life raising her three girls. She receives a fifteen year sentence due to mandatory sentencing guidelines. Her brother Rudy decides to start filming Cindy’s three daughters so she could have a visual record of the girls as they grow up in her absence.

When a parent goes away to prison, that is not the only person who suffers. Cindy’s husband is forced to care for his three girls on his own. The girls suffer not having their mom. Extended family members suffer. Had a judge not had his or her hands tied due to mandatory sentencing, perhaps Cindy might have been given probation or a one to two year sentence. But fifteen years for being the girlfriend of a drug dealer?

Mandatory sentencing does not work. Each case is different. It’s time to do away with this ridiculous law.

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