Troop 1500

March 21, 2006

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About the Documentary

At Hilltop Prison in Gatesville, Texas, a unique Girl Scout troop — Troop 1500 — unites daughters with mothers who are serving time for serious crimes, giving them a chance to rebuild their broken bonds. Facing long sentences from the courts, the mothers struggle to mend their fractured relationships with their daughters.

Troop 1500 follows five young Girl Scouts — sisters Caitlin and Mikaela, Jasmine, Jessica, and Naomi — whose mothers are serving time. Once inside the prison, the girls of Troop 1500 fall into the arms of the mothers they seldom see — Kenya, Melissa, Ida, and Susan — crying and laughing while pulling out report cards and pictures and passing along hellos from grandparents and absent brothers.

Filmmakers Ellen Spiro and Karen Bernstein, who volunteered with the girls for two years before making Troop 1500, gained unprecedented access to Girl Scouts of the USA, Gatesville Prison, and the families themselves. The filmmakers trained the girls in videography, so they could conduct their own interviews and tell their own stories — asking some difficult questions and getting some tough answers.

Troop 1500 goes beyond the girls’ prison experience to show what their daily lives are like: balancing family, schoolwork, and extracurricular activities under the care of dads, friends, and grandparents. And though the girls longingly await the day when their moms are free, their problems don’t always end upon their mothers’ release.

The result is a sobering but hopeful look at the struggles faced by the more than 1.5 million American children who have a parent behind bars.

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