Maximum-Security Prison Inmates Beat Harvard in Debate


A three-man debate team at Eastern Correctional Facility, a New York State maximum-security prison formerly known as the “State Institution for Male Defective Delinquents,” beat Harvard University in a competition in September—and is receiving another, well-deserved wave of recognition for this feat.

Inmates Carl Snyder, Dyjuan Tatro and Carlos Polanco, who are all in prison for violent crimes, debated Harvard on a question of education and immigration policy, arguing a side that they opposed personally—that public schools should not have to educate children of illegal immigrants. A panel of unaffiliated judges declared them the winners.

Previously, the Eastern Correctional Facility team has won debates against the University of Vermont and West Point. Their debate training comes from the legitimately prestigious and admirably successful Bard Prison Initiative, a program with an acceptance rate under 10 percent within the institution, which gives inmates a competitive liberal arts education for free.

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Bard program’s leaders say that 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 to parole violations, according to the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Harvard’s team won the national title this year and the world championship in 2014, so congratulations to Snyder, Tatro and Polanco on their very tight own.

Image via AP.

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