Inmate Debate Team

201512.08

Prison Debate PodiumsWhen we think of prison in these days, we think of gangs, rough times, violence, and the need for guards at every door. However, one prison in New York is changing the prison experience for the better for their inmates – and the evidence for it is astonishing.

The Eastern New York Correctional Center has a program that well-vetted prisoners can participate in. They work with Bard College via the Bard Prison Initiative, which allows prisoners who apply and are accepted can go back to school while they are incarcerated.

The prison process really begins at the site of the arrest. The bail bonds can be paid via a bondsmen (which a relative would contact, meet with, and pay an amount or sign over some collateral in case the accused misses the court date), but if the person is guilty, they are going to prison for a set amount of time. The prisoners that are participating in the Bard Prison Initiative are a testament to how the time in prison can be invested in bettering themselves, rather than spent feeling sorry for themselves.

Bard Prison Initiative

According to the Huffington Post, this program is increasing the percent of prisoners who do not return to jail after they are released. Via this program, less than 2% of prisoners are returning to prison after they are released. That’s not the only statistic they have to show for the program’s success, however.

The debate team enrolled via this program beat the debate team enrolled at Harvard. Yes, the debate team at the Harvard school was beaten by three inmates from The Eastern New York Correctional Center. While this isn’t the first success that has come to the team, Huffington Post reports, it is the most surprising success so far. It is also a testimony to the power that the prison system could have if the federal government would quit thinking that those in prison are not worth bettering.

Since the success of the program has been talked about, how does a prisoner get into the program to begin with? First off, they must be in the right location. There are only a handful of school-prison systems that a prisoner can use, and all are location based. To participate in the BPI (Bard Prison Initiative), they must be in New York.

How Does it Work?

The process is initiated by the prisoner, not the prison. This is one of the main differences between the BPI and some other prison education systems. The prisoner shows that they want to get an education.

From there, they write an essay. Details on what the essay would be about are not given, but one may think it has to do with their intentions for participating in the program or it’s like a regular college entrance essay. Only someone who has participated in this program could verify that. Next, a rigorous interview process begins. Like Harvard, it is no easy feat to enter into the BPI.