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10/8/2015

NewYorkPrisonersBeatHarvardDebateTeam

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New York Prisoners Beat Harvard


Debate Team
Posted By: Clayton Browne (http://www.valuewalk.com/author/clayton-browne/)
Posted date: October 08, 2015 03:08:07 PM In: Politics (http://www.valuewalk.com/category/politics/)
No Comments (http://www.valuewalk.com/2015/10/new-york-prisoners-vs-harvard-studentsdebate/#comments)

Preparationisthekeytomostthingsinlife,andnowhereisthatmoretruethanin
competitiveacademicdebates.Acaseinpointisarecentdebateinwhichateamof
NewYorkstateprisonersconvictedforviolentcrimessurprisinglybeatateamofwell
regardedHarvardundergraduates.

(http://www.valuewalk.com/wpcontent/uploads/2015/10/Harvarddebate.jpg)
Thewinningdebaters(http://www.wsj.com/articles/anunlikelydebateprisonvs
harvard1442616928)werestudentsattheBardPrisonInitiative,aprogramofferinga
challengingcollegeexperiencetoinmatesattheEasternNewYorkCorrectional
Facility.Theprogram,runbyBardCollegeinAnnandaleonHudson,NewYorkhas
beenworkingforalmost15yearstogiveasecondchancetofelonswillingtowork
hardandtryandcreateabetterlife.

More on the Bard Prison Initiative versus Harvard


debate
http://www.valuewalk.com/2015/10/newyorkprisonersvsharvardstudentsdebate/

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10/8/2015

NewYorkPrisonersBeatHarvardDebateTeam

Therathercontroversialtopicoflastweek'sdebatewas:Resolved:Publicschoolsin
theUnitedStatesshouldhavetheabilitytodenyenrollmenttoundocumented
students.TheBPIteamwasdebatinginfavoroftheresolution,andtheHarvardteam
wasthe"negative"side.
CarlosPolanco,a31yearoldfromQueensconvictedofmanslaughter,commented
followingthedebatethathewouldneverwanttobarachildfromschoolandwas
extremelygratefulhewasablepursueaBarddiploma.Wehavebeengracedwith
opportunity,hesaid.Theymakeusbelieveinourselves.
JudgeMaryNugent,theleaderofapanelofexperiencedjudgesforthedebate,noted
thattheBPIteammadeastrongcasethatalargenumberoftheschoolsattendedby
undocumentedchildrenwereperformingsopoorlythatstudentswerebeing
warehousedinsteadofeducated.Theyarguedthatifthesedropoutfactorieswith
overcrowdedclassroomsandinsufficientfundingdeniedthesechildrenadmission,
theninthevastmajorityofcasesyouwouldseenonprofitsandwealthierschoolsstep
inandprovideahigherqualityeducationfortheseundocumentedkids.
NugentwentontopointoutthattheHarvardCollegedebatingteamdidnotrespond
toagoodbitofthatargument,butnotedthatbothsidesputonanexcellentdebate.
TheHarvardteamadmittedtheywereimpressedbythepreparationoftheBPIteam
andthesurprisingandeffectiveargument.Theycaughtusoffguard,explained
AnaisCarell,ajuniorfromtheWindyCity.
Ofnote,theprisondebatingteamhaditsfirstdebateinearly2014,overcominga
teamfromtheU.S.MilitaryAcademy.Initsseconddebate,theBPIdebaterswon
againstanationallyrankedteamfromtheUniversityofVermont,butearlierthis
spring,theylostacloserematchagainstWestPoint.
TheBPIdebateteamisoperatingatasignificantdisadvantageintermsofresearch.
That'sbecauseInmatescantusetheInternetforresearch.Prisonofficialsmust
approveallrequestsforbooksandarticles,whichoftentakesweeks.

Debate was not rigged


Nugenthighlightedthatwhileitmightseemtheywouldbebiasedtovoteforthe
prisonersteam,allthreejudgesmustjustifytheirvotestoeachotherbasedon
exactingrulesandstandards.
Wereallhuman,shenoted.Idontthinkwecaneverjudgedevoidofcontextor
whereweare,buttheideatheywouldwinoutofsympathyisplayingintopretty
misguidedideasaboutinmates.Theiracademicabilityisimpressive.

More on Bard Prison Initiative


TheBardPrisonInitiativewaslaunchedin2001,andisdesignedtoprovideliberal
artseducationstotalented,motivatedinmates.BPIadministratorsreportthatcloseto
10inmatesapplyforeveryspotintheprogram,andtheapplicationprocessincludes
bothwrittenessaysandaseriesofinterviews.

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10/8/2015

NewYorkPrisonersBeatHarvardDebateTeam

TheBPIprogramdoesnotchargeanytuition.Ithasabudgetofcloseto$2.5milliona
year,allfromprivatedonors,andthatfigureincludesasignificantsumofmoneythat
BPIisinvestingtohelpprisonsandcollegesdevelopsimilarprogramsinnineother
states.
AccordingtorecordskeptbytheadministratorsofBPI,todateover300alumniofthe
programhaveearneddegreeswhileincustody,andlessthan2%returnedtoprison
withinthreeyears(thegenerallyacceptedtimeframeformeasuringprison
recidivism).
KeepinmindthatinNewYorkstateasawhole,morethan40%ofthosereleased
fromcustodyeventuallywindupbackinprison.Thenumberonereasonexoffenders
endupbackinjailisparoleviolations,basedondatafromtheNewYorkDepartment
ofCorrectionsandCommunitySupervision.
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NewYorkPrisonersBeatHarvardDebateTeam

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Clayton Browne
(http://www.valuewalk.com/author/clayton-browne/)
Clayton Browne is an experienced writer, editor and translator with a broad
background in the social sciences, technology, finance and investing.
Favorite pastimes include science fiction, sports, poker and good food. He is
an active volunteer at the Austin Children's Shelter and a member of the
Austin-area Salvation Army Advisory Board.

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