(PCM) The news that a group of inmates from the Eastern New York Correctional Facility recently defeated the illustrious Harvard University debate team is quickly going viral. The completing inmates are part of the Bard Prison Initiative which is a program created by Bard University to provide college education to qualifying prisoners.
Thus far, the inmate debate team has defeated the nationally ranked team from the University of Vermont, as well as, the team from the U.S. Military Academy of West Point. The inmate team invited the Harvard debate team to participate.
During the match, the inmates has to defend a point of view that they strongly disagreed with which was “Resolved: Public schools in the United States should have the ability to deny enrollment for undocumented students”.
After the debate when speaking with the Wall Street Journal, a member of the inmate debate team Carlos Polanco said “He would never want to keep a child from attending school but he was incredibly grateful for the chance to attend Bard College while incarcerated. He says the program helps the inmates believe in themselves once again.
The Harvard team did not appear to be too upset over the loss, as they posted the following on their Facebook page “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 inmate debate team members faced many challenges when preparing for the debate, as they lack easy internet and computer access and there is often times a delay in receiving necessary written materials. According to CNN.com, they also have a different perspective that college students may not share. They fully understand that their education from Bard College is an opportunity that many inmates don’t receive.
The Bard Prison Initiative currently has over 300 students enrolled and less that 2% of the students who have been released from prison ever return.