This is probably something you did not expect to hear: three incarcerated men were able to beat a trio of Harvard undergrads in a recent debate at Eastern New York Correctional Facility, in the Catskills.
The unorthodox debate was part of an initiative, the Bard Prison Initiative, which was put in place to give prisoners a chance at a better life.
“We have been graced with opportunity,” said Carlos Polanco, who is currently in prison for manslaughter. “They make us believe in ourselves.”
The students of the Bard Prison Initiative are not able to use the Internet for research, according to the Wall Street Journal. Instead, they must put in requests for books that can take weeks to receive. Despite those difficulties, it appears as though the prisoners are taking full advantage of the opportunity and the initiative is making a positive impact.
“We’re all human,” said Judge Mary Nugent, who led the debate panel. “I don’t think we can ever judge devoid of context or where we are, but the idea they would win out of sympathy is playing into pretty misguided ideas about inmates. Their academic ability is impressive.”
This is truly great to see.
More than 300 incarcerated men and women have earned their degrees through the initiative and less than two percent of those who achieved the goal returned to prison.
The positive impact is undeniable.
Kudos to the Bard Prison Intiative for allowing men to turn their lives around and continue to develop academically. This is something that can make a world of difference and we hope it continues to take place.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to The Wall Street Journal