What would you say if I told you that in a debate between Harvard College students and a group of inmates at a maximum-security prison, the group of inmates won?
How about, “fuck yeah!”?
Inmates from the Eastern New York Correctional Facility defeated the Harvard debate team in a match that was part of the Bard Prison Initiative. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Bard Prison Initiative, a program run by the Bard College, provides college education to qualifying prisoners.
Part of that program is the inmate debate club – a club with an amazing record. They’ve defeated nationally ranked teams from the University of Vermont and the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
In the debate against the Harvard College Debating Union, inmates had to defend a point of view in which they strongly disagreed: “Resolved: Public schools in the United States should have the ability to deny enrollment to undocumented students.”
Following the debate, Carlos Polanco, who is in prison for manslaughter, told the WSJ that, “We have been graced with opportunity. They make us believe in ourselves.”
The Harvard debate club took the loss gracefully – possibly fearing being shanked on the way out (…kidding!). On the group’s Facebook page they wrote, “Three members of the HCDU had the privilege of competing against members of the Bard Prison Initiative’s debate program. There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend, and we are incredibly thankful to Bard and the Eastern New York Correctional Facility for the work they do and for organizing this event.”
The current prison system is screwed up. We need more programs like this that actually strive to rehabilitate and educate.