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Harvard Debating Team Defeated By Their Prison Counterpart

Inmate debate team is part of Bard College program helping give prisoners a chance for a better life

On one side of the stage at a maximum-security prison here sat three men incarcerated for violent crimes.

On the other were three undergraduates from Harvard College.

After an hour of fast-moving debate Friday, the judges rendered their verdict.

The inmates had won.


Among the audience were 75 of the prisoners’ who were fellow students at the Bard Prison Initiative, which offers a rigorous college experience to men at Eastern New York Correctional Facility, in the Catskills.

The debaters on both sides aimed to highlight the academic power of a program, part of Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., that seeks to give a second chance to inmates hoping to build a better life.


It is worthy to note that unlike their Harvard counterpart, the Inmates can’t use the Internet for research. The prison administration must approve requests for books and articles, which can take weeks. But all these limitation did not hole the Inmates back from securing a victory against the Ivy league college.

The prison team had its first debate in spring 2014, beating the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Then, it won against a nationally ranked team from the University of Vermont and in April lost a rematch against West Point. Source: WSJ

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