This Prison’s Debate Team Just Beat Harvard…Let That Sink In

While many individuals are wracking their brains on how to get into the most elite of post secondary institutions, the Ivy Leagues, such as Yale, Princeton and the one and only Harvard, three inmates of the Eastern New York Correctional Facility (that’s fancy talk for JAIL) in Ulster County just demolished one of the top ranked teams in a debate.

And that’s not even the best part!

While the Harvard team had the luxury of preparing with unlimited internet access, top informational resources and guidance from esteemed professors, the inmates had NO access whatsoever to the internet and many of the books they needed to prepare had to be ORDERED and approved by the prison…a process that can take up to 3 weeks or more.

Yet hard work still prevailed over opportunity, as the team of inmates were named winners of the debate by a panel of judges, building on their recent win over the U.S. Military Academy at West Point N.Y. They had to defend a principle they vehemently disagreed with, “Public schools in the United States should have the ability to deny enrollment to undocumented students.”

The prison’s debate team is part of an initiative to give convicts a better chance at success and avoiding re-incarceration after they are released, known as the Bard Prison Initiative. The prison partners with local Bard College, offering inmates access to education and skills improvement that will hopefully aid them in securing a job upon their release. This will not only potentially lower the federal costs we all pay via taxes to keep these inmates house and fed, but will increase the number of contributing members to society.

Congrats to these young men, who, by the way were all men of color (black and Hispanic) and we hope this initiative, which recently received $1 million in backing from the Ford Foundation, will continue to help these young men get a second chance at life.

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