About the film

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What is life like for children whose mothers or fathers are incarcerated? What happens to parents and grandparents left to care for these children apart from the imprisoned parent?

A group of youth spent a week together in the summer of 2009 learning how documentary films are made and then using this new knowledge to tell their own stories of having a parent in prison. The result is Life Without, a series of six powerful vignettes produced by these youth.

Life Without provides an informative glimpse into what life is like for the almost two-and-a-half million children in the United States currently living without an incarcerated parent.  These candid tales reveal a wide range of experiences and from each account we learn important lessons about how families cope with this sometimes overwhelming challenge.  Despite their difficulties, these are surprisingly hopeful stories of resilience and determination able both to inform and inspire.

TRT: about 35 minutes

Produced by Melissa Mummert in association with Wonderworld Film & Video


MelissaRev. Melissa Mummert is a community minister affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte. She is an educator and longtime advocate for people who are incarcerated and their families. In recent years, Melissa coordinated a domestic violence education program at the Mecklenburg County Jail and started a support group program for children with incarcerated parents. Melissa now works for Changed Choices www.changedchoices.org, a local organization that helps women who are incarcerated and who are transitioning to the community. She teaches parenting classes for mothers at the Mecklenburg County Jail and is in the process of working with Changed Choices clients to create a meal-preparation business called Second Helping www.secondhelpingcharlotte.com.

A documentary filmmaker in her spare time, Melissa’s first award-winning film Perversion of Justice, told the story of her friend Hamedah Hasan, who received two life sentences for her first non-violent drug offense. Melissa is also a budding singer-songwriter, mother to four year old daughter Annie and wife of Jay Leach, minister of the UU Church of Charlotte.

Melissa worked closely with her friends Dorne Pentes & Ivi Bilich at Wonderworld Film and Video http://www.wonderworldtv.net/

About the Youth Directors


JaQuila - JaQuila is enjoying being reunited with her mom, Linda, following her release from prison. JaQuila is anticipating going to middle school next year. Linda just got a job and is working actively on her recovery. JaQuila visits grandma Maria often.

Ladarius - Ladarius is enrolled in the Academy of Engineering Phillip O. Berry, a challenging magnet school in the Charlotte area. After a stressful period of unemployment, mother Natasha Morris is working steadily, is striving to complete her G.E.D. and is working toward founding a new organization dedicated to families affected by incarceration.

Tony & Markayle – Tony and Markayle continue to do well in school, boasting perfect attendance.

Jeromiah, Cree and Skye - Jeromiah, Cree and Skye still enjoy flexing their creative muscles by drawing, break-dancing and attending Northwest School of the Arts. Since participating in Life Without, Cree has his sights set on a career in film. Oldest brother, William, is applying for colleges. Mom Indigo Smith continues to set goals for the future, including becoming a motivational speaker.

Jamesha - Jamesha is looking forward to her dad coming home next year. In addition to her very supportive mom, Deborah, Jamesha enjoys spending time with her mentor, Patrice.

All of the youth who volunteered to participate in Life Without responded to publicity or were youth that producer Melissa Mummert knew from her direct service work in the community. We would have liked to have had more racial diversity among the youth, and certainly don’t wish to send the message that only children of color are affected by parental incarceration.

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