The Sharing Hope About Recovery Experiences (SHARE) Program is a community outreach program based at Federal Medical Center Carswell, a prison for female offenders in Fort Worth, Texas. Since the program’s inception in the summer of 1996, the inmate presenters have spoken to more than 2,000 at-risk adolescent girls and women, usually in small groups of 20 or less audience members. The purpose of the SHARE Program is to provide important information to the adolescent girls and at-risk women in the local community about the circumstances and behavior of women who are serving time in federal prison. The intention of the SHARE Program is not to scare them into avoiding prison, but to educate them about the choices that girls and women often make that eventually lead them into compromising situations.
Preventive and rehabilitative community programs designed specifically for at-risk females are generally absent due to the historical trends of either treating both male and female delinquents or offenders the same, or neglecting the needs of females because they represent a small portion of the overall population. The SHARE Program, one of the few “female only” programs in the community, provides a unique service. The inmate presenters express themselves in an honest and compelling fashion, often eliciting strong emotional responses from audience members. When the inmate reveal their histories of childhood chaos, abuse, neglect, and other traumatic events and the subsequent choices they made, the at-risk audience members often admit that they are experiencing similar problems in their own lives.
When the program first began, six inmate presenters were selected after careful screening and interviewing. The original group of six inmate presenters in 1996 expanded to 12 presenters by the fall of 1997. In 1999, seven new presenters were selected, bringing the total to 15. The inmate population is now aware of the program’s success and many applied to become presenters. The number of community agencies involved in the program continues to grow as word about the inmates’ ability to reach difficult teens and women spreads.
Initially, all programs were conducted inside of Federal Medical Center Carswell, however in late 1997 eligible inmate presenters were allowed to go out into the community. The first group, teens from the Texas Youth Commission Willoughby House, a halfway house for delinquent girls, were an enthusiastic audience. They cried for the presenters’ struggles and for themselves, many of whom are from deeply troubled families. Since that first presentation in December 1996, the SHARE presenters consistently receive similar feedback from girls in dropout prevention programs, alternative school, residential treatment facilities, the juvenile detention center, and battered women’s shelters.
The SHARE Program has been in continuous operation since December 1996. It received the Federal Medical Center Carswell Volunteer Program of the Year in 1998 and was nominated for the award in 1997 and 1999.