Breaking Stereotypes: Harvard Debate Team Loses to Prison Debate Team

Three men that have been incarcerated for violent crimes at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility just defeated the elite debate team from Harvard University.

Three men that have been incarcerated for violent crimes at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility just defeated the elite debate team from Harvard University, thus shattering stereotypes and giving testament to the wasted potential lying in wait in prisons around the nation.

Before beginning the debate, one member of the prison debate team expressed his wish to inspire other inmates to challenge themselves intellectually.

“If we win, it’s going to make a lot of people question what goes on in here,” said Alex Hall, a 31-year-old from Manhattan convicted of manslaughter. “We might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted, but we work really hard.”

Members of the Harvard team were absolutely shocked and stunned by the prisoners’ intellect.

“They caught us off guard,” said Harvard debate team member 20-year-old Anais Carell.

According to the Free Thought Project, “The prison debate team is the product of the Bard College Initiative, which began in 2001. The program is a rigorous academic experience offered to the men incarcerated at the Catskills, New York penitentiary through the Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.”

This incredible, forward-thinking program offers inmates a chance to learn and succeed academically, and receives roughly about 10 inmates per opening with interviews and written essays.

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The Wall Street Journal reports, “There is no tuition. The initiative’s roughly $2.5 million annual budget comes from private donors and includes money it spends helping other programs follow its model in nine other states.

Last year New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, proposed state grants for college classes for inmates, saying that helping them become productive taxpayers would save money long-term. He dropped the plan after attacks from Republican politicians who argued that many law-abiding families struggled to afford college and shouldn’t have to pay for convicted criminals to get degrees.

The Bard program’s leaders say that out of more than 300 alumni who earned degrees while in custody, less than 2% returned to prison within three years, the standard time frame for measuring recidivism.

In New York state as a whole, by contrast, about 40% of ex-offenders end up back in prison, mostly because of parole violations, according to the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.”

This isn’t their first victory, either. The prison debate team has been winning debates with some of the nation’s most elite debate teams.

In their first debate back in the spring of 2014, they won their first debate against the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, then went on to defeated the nationally ranked University of Vermont.

Counter Current News points out some hard facts: “The current prison system has essentially become college for criminals, with survival of the fittest being taught as the curriculum.”

The way we have approached inmates and prison systems has led to a lot of problems — an overhaul needs to be made, and giving prisoners real knowledge with real applications could never be a bad thing. If anything, it gives them an actual chance at a crime-free life when they are eventually released. Who doesn’t want that?

Recommended: Shocking Stanford Prison Experiment

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