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Until We Have Faces: Women Serving Life

About the Documentary

Until We Have Faces; is a poetic documentary that explores the spiritual and corporeal identities of women serving life sentences in a United States maximum security prison, known as SCI Muncy in Pennsylvania. Women tell their personal stories as they reflect upon their humanity, their past and incarceration. Rather than simply gazing in on these women that have been labeled violent offenders, the film creates an intimate portrait of their inner lives through exploring their perspectives, experiences, hopes, and dreams. We were not permitted to show their faces.

About the Filmmakers

Kathryn M. Whiteley, born in Australia is a criminologist and college professor who received her Ph.D. from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Brisbane, Australia. With a specialization in gender and violent crime, focuses specifically on incarcerated women serving life and life without parole.


She continues to visit incarcerated women around the world to capture their personal stories. She also volunteers as a Pennsylvania Prison Society Official Visitor.

The women are desirous to have their larger life experiences communicated. Through their words, their voice, we can further learn the personal life long complexities each woman has endured, beyond their crime. We have the chance to hear from them, not from others. Listen to their words, hear what they say, then reflect.

Previewing Documentary:
Inside SCI Muncy

I was born in Queensland Australia and now live in central Pennsylvania. I am a college professor, and a Pennsylvania Prison Society Official Visitor. My professional and personal relationship with women incarcerated for murder began nearly two decades ago, when I was completing my dissertation in Australia. Since then, I have had the passion and opportunity to travel to women’s maximum-security prisons within the United States, Australia and Ireland to individually interview many women incarcerated for murder. My research focus, with which I frame as “their story telling,” encapsulates the essence of their lives, past and present through their words, their voice. This small imprisoned cohort of women rarely receive the opportunity to be heard. Often, they are dehumanized as opposed to humanized. I continue to write, send cards and visit many of the women. This includes overseas visits as well as trips to Texas and SCI-Muncy, Pennsylvania. The documentary “Until We Have Faces,” was created to provide a voice for women serving life and life without parole at SCI-Muncy in Pennsylvania. The original intent was to film the woman sharing her personal life journey, while incarcerated. However, we learned from the Department of Corrections that for our documentary project we would not be permitted to show the women’s faces. Nonetheless, my colleague and I chose to forge ahead with the support of the Department of Corrections to produce the documentary. Hence the title, “Until We Have Faces.” Though we were disappointed the women’s faces were concealed, there was a surprising unexpected response. Without the opportunity to focus upon the women’s faces, our audience have shared they were more focused on the voice and words of the women. The first group to view the documentary was an audience of approximately 150 women (serving long and life sentences), and the superintendent and staff at SCI-Muncy. The documentary was screened in the prison chapel. I recall feeling grateful and excited to see row after row of women sitting in the chapel pews, staring towards the front, waiting for the film to begin. Then, once the film had concluded, we invited women who participated in the film to come to the front and speak to the group about their personal experience while working on the documentary. Observing women in the audience while the film was screened was extremely heartwarming. “Until We Have Faces” is not about the prison and its surroundings, it’s about hearing, listening to “the words,” which these women rarely have the chance to express beyond the prison walls. It was the power within their words which resonated and impacted many women on that day. At the end, one woman came to me and said, “I just closed my eyes and cried tears … because that woman was me.” This was a day that I will always cherish. Feedback regarding the documentary, came in the form of reflective letters written by women who attended that day. In closing, I give the last word to a woman serving life, who did not participate in “Until We Have Faces.” My Reflection of “Until We Have Faces” As a Human being first, as a Woman second and a Lifer third, it’s important that we are viewed in a light where our crimes aren’t what defines us. We as a whole are flawed and imperfect. The way we were featured was beautiful, if beauty can be seen in this setting. This documentary evokes emotion on so many fronts. It’s finally happening. Though our faces may not have been seen, our Voices were definitely heard. My reflection is now I have real hope for change. Where in the past, there was none! Respectfully, A Human 1st, A Woman 2nd, A Lifer 3rd

Graterfriends - Documentary Reactions

"Beautiful. A must see documentary. I can see me in it."

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