Inmate debate team beats out Harvard team in competition

Don't underestimate the Bard Prison Initiative Debate team, even when they're up against an Ivy League school. The group of inmates beat out Harvard undergraduates in a debate competition last month.

"We might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted, but we work really hard," 31-year-old inmate Alex Hall told the Wall Street Journal.

The three inmates are pursuing Bard College degrees while serving time for violent offenses in the Eastern New York Maximum Security Prison. When preparing for debates, the men don't have access to the same resources as their opponents; they can't use the Internet for research and prison administrators must approve requests for books and articles.

Thirty-one-year-old Carlos Polanco told the Wall Street Journal that he's grateful for the chance to pursue a college degree.

"We have been graced with opportunity," he said. "They make us believe in ourselves."

As for the Ivy League students, they took the loss in stride, posting on Facebook: "There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend."

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