Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance brings award winning documentary to discuss prison reform

Jun 12, 2019

Cindy Shank with her three daughters Autumn, Ava, and Annalise before she was incarcerated for 9 years.
Credit Rudy Valdez

Over 700 people gathered at Hope College on Tuesday to watch The Sentence. A documentary film directed by Michigan filmmaker, Rudy Valdez about Cindy Shank who spent nine years in prison for a non-violent offense she committed six years before she was incarcerated. 

“You know when she was sent away she had a daughter who was four, a daughter who was two, and a daughter who was six weeks old. So, I followed their stories, and full disclosure the person who was sent away is my sister. So it’s a film told from the inside out, an intimate film about a family from a family.” 

The film takes place in Lansing, Michigan and showcases the hundreds of phone calls that took place between Shank and her three daughters.  Even though It took Valdez nine years to finish the film—this he says it was intentional because he didn’t want to tell the story until his sister was released from prison and reunited with her daughters. President Barack Obama granted Shank clemency in 2016, and she was freed on December of 2017. Today,  Valdez says Shank and her daughters are doing really well. 

“Overall they are doing well, but the fight is long lasting. There are ramifications from the sentence that we won’t see for a very long time as they grow into young adulthood and as they deal with all the issues that were laid upon them in their young childhood.” 

The documentary, now in contention for Emmy nominations, premiered at Sundance in 2018 and is now available on HBO. 

Michelle Jokisch Polo, WGVU News.