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A Note from WRM
Go Bard!
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  • Kevin

    For all its other faults, the US educational system has been better than most at giving people second chances or recognizing and allowing to blossom the talents of late bloomers. This is particularly useful at preventing the solidification of a rigid class system.

  • FriendlyGoat

    I would guess that the debate team results from Eastern New York Correctional Facility will be the direct result of one or a few on-fire educators or program advocates swimming upstream every day against the custody staff who grouse about it, slow-walk it or make fun of it. There are more forces against real help for inmates than in favor—–from citizens in the general public to prison authority figures. This is a discouraging fact of life, so we should celebrate the few who pull it off successfully anywhere.

  • Andrew Allison

    Would it be unkind to suggest that the Bard-educated inmates are getting, for free, a better education than the very expensive ones being given to students at Harvard and West Point?

    • Ofer Imanuel

      Possibly because they don’t have a safe space?

  • ljgude

    I ran a HEW funded second chance program in New Jersey in the late 60s and there is definitely real talent in jail and often young men in their early 20s are ready to make a real effort to change their lives. In my final report after two years I was able to say that we had genuinely redirected some lives but that the cost per student was too high. I had become a early domestic neo-con and didn’t know it, nor did I discover Commentary until decades later. But there is real untapped potential there and I am delighted to see that a privately funded effort has met success. Interestingly one of my best students – independently of my programs – had done something similar to the Bard debate team by organizing a weight lifting team within the prison that competed very effectively against local college teams. He went on to become a journalist for a weightlifting magazine. Our program was campus based for work release eligible prisoners and there were plenty of transition problems. I like the structure of an in prison program where they students go through to a degree while still incarcerated – mine was a 2 year community college program. It feels to me like there has been some real progress in this area and that like my students over 40 years ago there can be tremendous motivation for the right people who have gone wrong when they are given a real second chance. Warms my heart to hear of it.

  • White Knight Leo

    I’m always skeptical of prison reform programs, especially ones that tout huge successes rather than incremental gains. Thomas Sowell documented a number of such touted programs and showed that, for the most part, the ‘successes’ were largely based on moving the goalposts and hiding the details.
    Obviously a reform program that worked would be a welcome change.

    Its officials say its graduates leave with marketable skills and less than 2% have returned to prison in three years, the metric for measuring recidivism.

    This, I’m a bit skeptical of.

    It is funded mostly through private donations.

    Assuming this is using a valid definition of “mostly”, this might be a good sign.

    • ljgude

      Good points. My experience showed the potential was there for those who genuinely wanted to change. They proved it by using the opportunity to get out and not look back but many failed and I learned to chuck them out quickly. It became pretty obvious quickly who was committed and who wasn’t. A real and rigorous academic in prison program would sort out most of those who only think they want to actually transform themselves. As I said my numbers were not cost efficient and I didn’t move the goal posts in my final report. Such naiveté, I could still be living off the government under false pretenses!! But along with ordinary employment I had 3 that stood out. One became a journalist for a recognized magazine, one went on to get a 4 year degree and got a good job in Germany for an advertising firm, and a third successfully started his own long haul trucking company. Then there was the guy who was playing basketball for us on work release and headed for a basketball scholarship who, when he was released, ran every toll booth on the Garden State Parkway and ended up back in jail the same night. Not your ordinary bunch of guys, but always interesting to work with.

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