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Documentary focuses on the effects of mandatory minimum sentencing from outside the prison wall.

Rudy Valdez didn’t set out to make a documentary when he began filming his family; he just wanted to make sure his sister didn’t miss any milestones during her 15-year prison sentence.Mahita Gajanan, “HBO's The Sentence Shines a Light on the Devastating Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentences,” Time, October 16, 2018.

Cindy Shank thought she had moved on with her life after charges against her for conspiracy related to her deceased ex-boyfriend’s drug sales were dropped; she was married, had two children, and was pregnant with a third when the federal government revived its case against her with charges that carried a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years.Mahita Gajanan, “HBO's The Sentence Shines a Light on the Devastating Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentences,” Time, October 16, 2018. After Shank’s daughter was born and her imprisonment began, Valdez began filming the children.Mahita Gajanan, “HBO's The Sentence Shines a Light on the Devastating Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentences,” Time, October 16, 2018. The result is the film The Sentence, which aired on HBO in October and tells the story of a family whose mother is, for most of the documentary, just a voice on the phone.Mahita Gajanan, “HBO's The Sentence Shines a Light on the Devastating Effects of Mandatory Minimum Sentences,” Time, October 16, 2018.