By Melissa Camacho,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Poignant docu about mandatory minimum imprisonment.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Highlights the real consequences mandatory minimum sentences can have on people’s everyday lives. The importance of family, staying strong, and being positive are also themes.
Positive Role Models
The family does what it can to support Cindy and to raise her children. Cindy is a committed mother, even from prison.
Violence & Scariness
The violent death of Cindy Shank’s former boyfriend is briefly mentioned.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drug dealing discussed; Cindy Shanks is convicted for conspiracy to sell cocaine.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Sentence is an emotional documentary that follows the far-reaching impact of the long-term incarceration of wife and mother Cindy Shank due to federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The details of her non-violent crime, which is associated with drug dealing and a killing, are briefly discussed, but most of the focus is on the consequences her absence has on her children.
To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
There aren't any parent reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.
What's the Story?
THE SENTENCE is a documentary about the consequences of mandatory-minimum sentencing. Director Rudy Valdez's older sister, Cindy Shank, was a wife and mother of three small children when she was charged and convicted of conspiracy to distribute cocaine for not reporting a late boyfriend's criminal activity to the police years before. Thanks to federal minimum mandatory sentencing guidelines, she was sent to a federal work camp for 15 years. Valdez's cameras follow their extended family, which includes their parents, Cindy's husband Adam, and their three daughters, as they cope with living their lives without her, and with trying to secure her release.
Is It Any Good?
The poignant documentary offers a very personal glimpse into the lives of a family who pays a high price for the mandatory long-term incarceration of a loved one for a non-violent offense. The film, which won the Audience Favorite Award at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, was shot over approximately ten years. It began as a compilation of home movies meant to record Cindy Shank's daughters' lives while she was serving her sentence. But what it captures is the toll it takes on her loved ones, and how her children are sentenced to grow up without her until her pardon in 2016.
The Sentence contains some very emotional moments. However, despite some brief interview footage with lawyers and others involved with Cindy Shank's case, it offers few details about their almost-decade long legal battle. It doesn't spend a significant amount of time addressing the overall strain mandatory minimum sentencing is having on the U.S. penal system, and the impact it particularly has on women. What it does do, however, is underscore the fact that these laws have very real and damaging consequences that are both unfair and unnecessary, from an intimate point of view.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about mandatory minimum sentencing. What was the intention behind putting these kinds of laws put into place? What are the resulting problems?
How would you feel if you lost a member of your family for a certain amount of time? How do you think families deal with the strain of a mother or father in prison?
- In theaters: October 12, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: October 22, 2019
- Cast: Cindy Shankm, Adam Shank, Autumn Shank
- Director: Rudy Valdez
- Inclusion Information: Latinx directors
- Studio: Park Pictures
- Genre: Documentary
- Run time: 85 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Some material may not suited for children.
- Last updated: January 30, 2023
Inclusion information powered by
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Watch
Our Editors Recommend
Great TV Shows with Latino Characters and Creators
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate