Troop 1500

Their mothers may be convicted criminals, but the Girl Scouts of Troop 1500 want to be doctors, social workers, and marine biologists.

Film Signature Image
Independent Lens, True Stories
Premiere Date
March 21, 2006
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2005 South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW)-Audience Award Runner Up (Lone Star States)
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2007 Gracie Awards-Outstanding Documentary
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    2007 Gracie Awards-Outstanding Director - Ellen Spiro
  • Producer/Director

    Ellen Spiro

    Ellen Spiro, who often works as a one-person crew, is known for making humorous social issue films. Her most recent film is Body of War (co-directed and co-produced with Phil Donahue). Body of War won Best Documentary of 2007 from the National Board of Review and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival where it won an audience award. Show more Additionally, Ellen Spiro and Phil Donahue received a 2007 nomination for Best Documentary from the Producer’s Guild of America. Spiro’s other award-winning films have been shown broadcast on television worldwide on PBS, HBO, BBC, CBC, and NHK and in multiple screenings at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum Biennial exhibition. Her 1993 film Greetings from Out Here was the first ITVS production broadcast nationwide on PBS. Show less


    Karen Bernstein

    Karen Bernstein has spent the last 15 years in documentary production, most notably as series producer for PBS’s American Masters, for which she received a Primetime Emmy Award and a Grammy Award for documentaries on Ella Fitzgerald and Lou Reed, respectively. She produced and directed Are the Kids Alright? for PBS and has produced documentaries for the Show more Sundance Channel, HBO, and Gallery HD. Show less

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    The Film

    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.