Listen: HBO’s ‘The Sentence’ Spotlights Family Toll of Mandatory Prison Terms

The Sentence HBO
Courtesy of HBO

WASHINGTON — What largely got lost in the surreal moments surrounding President Trump’s meeting with Kanye West last week was the purpose of the visit: Criminal justice reform.

Kanye West, Kim Kardashian West, and other entertainment figures have tried to spotlight the problems with mandatory minimum sentencing, which has put non-violent drug offenders behind bars for years and, in some cases, decades.

HBO’s “The Sentence,” debuting on Monday, is about one such case.

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 her late former boyfriend, a drug dealer.

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

Shank’s brother, filmmaker Rudy Valdez, started shooting his family as they coped with Shank’s imprisonment and her longshot effort to obtain clemency. President Barack Obama granted her request in late 2016, just before the holidays, but as the movie shows, she missed much of her daughters’ childhoods, and has since been building a new life.

Valdez continues to advocate for sentencing reform, trying to draw the attention of lawmakers in both parties. Last summer, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) hosted a screening on Capitol Hill for staffers and other members of the government.

“The film isn’t a political film. I am not a politician,” Valdez says. “I wanted to tell an honest story about the ramifications of these sentencing laws.”

Listen below:

“PopPolitics,” hosted by Variety‘s Ted Johnson, airs from 2-3 p.m. ET/11 a.m.-12 p.m. PT on SiriusXM’s political channel POTUS. It also is available on demand.