‘The Sentence’ Screens at Capitol in Hopes of Spurring Action on Criminal Justice Reform

WASHINGTON — Cindy Shank was raising her three young daughters with her husband, Adam, when her life was turned upside down in 2007: She was prosecuted on conspiracy charges tied to her long-past relationship with a her late boyfriend, a drug dealer.

Because of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, she was given 15 years in federal prison.

Her story is the basis for the documentary “The Sentence,” set to air on HBO on Oct. 15, which screened on Capitol Hill this week. Far more than just another issue-oriented project, it’s the type of project that some lawmakers hope will create momentum for sentencing reform.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) hopes it will be a “transformative event for so many people across the country,” as it personalizes an issue in a way that speeches and think-tank panels cannot.

He and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who are championing pending legislation, co-hosted the screening at the Kennedy Caucus Room, and they were joined by Rudy Valdez, Shank’s brother and the filmmaker behind the project.

Valdez chronicled his sister’s story over the course of much of her incarceration, and makes the point that the issue is not with her guilt, but with the fairness of her sentence. Her incarceration ended in December, 2016, when she was granted clemency by President Barack Obama. Shank, too, was at the screening, albeit she arrived a tad late because of a flight delay.

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