Prison team wins Harvard University debate team

Prison team defeats Ivy League college debate team. The Harvard University team was crowned World Champions in 2014 and recently won a national title.

Three inmates serving time for violent crimes at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility did the seemingly unthinkable: defeating Harvard University’s debate team, considered one of the world’s best. In preparation, the prisoners had no internet access to help them, relying on books and articles.

The Harvard University team crowned World Champions in 2014 tasted defeat just months after winning a national title, reported the Guardian. The prisoners who are part of the Bard Prison Initiative, convincingly trounced the Ivy league students. The Bard initiative is a programme, which offers an “opportunity for incarcerated men and women to earn a Bard College degree while serving their sentences”.

Prisoners who are part of the Bard Prison Initiative Photo: BPI

The prison team had to argue for a position, which it strongly opposed, that “Public schools in the United States should have the ability to deny enrolment to undocumented students,” according to the Wall Street Journal.


Commenting on the victory, Judge Mary Nugent heaped praise on the prisoners saying, “the idea they would win out of sympathy is playing into pretty misguided ideas about inmates. Their academic ability is impressive,” Ringoffire Radio reported.

It seems the prison team has acquired a penchant for success, previously defeating the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, among a string of impressive wins.

The Harvard team wrote on its 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”.

Carl Snyder, a prison inmate and member of the Bard Prison Initiative Debate team, speaks during a debate against Harvard College Debating Union.  Photo: Peter Foley/Wall Street Journal

Despite some challenges, the Bard Initiative has made a positive impact and according to the BPI overview, “by 2013, Bard granted nearly 300 degrees to BPI participants and enrolled more than 700 students”.

Source: WSJ


Written by How Africa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Why SA’s nuclear plan is everyone’s business

UpFront – Reality Check: Africa is not a country [Must Read & Share]