NY Correctional Facility VS Harvard Debate TeamLMNOLA
Spoiler: Harvard loses a debate against the inmates!
About two weeks ago, three undergraduates from Harvard went to a maximum security prison to go head-to-head with three men, all serving sentences at Eastern New York Correctional Facility for manslaughter.
The prison debate team is part of something called the Bard Prison Initiative, a program which offers inmates a chance to earn a college degree at a pretty intense pace and they currently have about 300 prisoners enrolled in total. One of the facilities that offers the Bard Prison Initiative is the Eastern New York Correctional Facility in the Catskills and that is where our ivy league college-facing debate team is from. The inmates on the debate team have been competing, and successfully winning, against nationally ranked college teams since the spring of 2014. It's even more impressive considering they have much more to overcome as far as debate preparation goes: In prison, there are rules that completely prevent internet usage and if they want to request certain books or articles, all the paperwork and approvals and actually getting the documents to them can take weeks.
The debate only took one hour and the judges's unanimous verdict declared the inmates as the winners . The topic? Whether or not public schools in the United States should have the ability to deny enrollment to undocumented students. Interestingly enough, the inmates had to argue that public schools SHOULD deny the undocumented students, a stance that none of the men actually agreed with. Harvard's team was actually taken by surprise by how prepared the Bard team was. After the debate, one of the men on the prison team, Carlos Polanco, a 31-year-old from Queens, felt the need to make a statement saying that he would never want to prevent a child from attending school and that he was eternally grateful for his opportunity to pursue a Bard diploma. Whether they win or lose, their goal at the end of the day is to inspire other people in prisons to work hard to pursue educations.
It's not as glamorous as Orange is the New Black, but it's still pretty cool. Maybe even a little bit cooler. Just a little bit.