(AllHipHop News) Criminal justice reform will likely be one of the big topics in the 2016 presidential campaign. Candidates should perhaps look into the Bard Prison Initiative. The program may provide a productive template for rehabilitating convicted felons by offering college-level courses.
According to The Wall Street Journal, inmates at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility took part in the Bard Prison Initiative, and the outcome was a win in a war of words over Ivy League students. Three men from the prison won a debate against undergraduates from Harvard College.
The two teams debated the issue of public schools having the ability to deny enrollment to undocumented students. Though they disagreed with the premise, the inmates had to defend the idea. After nearly an hour of back-and-forth, judges awarded the victory to the inmates.
“They caught us off guard,” said Harvard junior Anais Carell.
The prison debaters were not allowed to use the internet for research and could only rely on written texts such as books and magazines. Prison administrators had to approve every material the prisoners were able to use which could take weeks. Even with that disadvantage, the Bard team has also defeated West Point and the University of Vermont.
Leaders of the Bard program claim that less than 2% of the 300 alumni who earned degrees returned to prison within three years. The entire state of New York has a 40% re-entry rate, mostly from parole violations.
Alex Hall, a Bard debater convicted of manslaughter, added, “We might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted, but we work really hard.”
For more information about the Bard Prison Initiative visit bpi.bard.edu.
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Watch a video of Bard Prison Initiative’s 13th Commencement below.