Oh dear. There’s a turnup for the books.

The debating team from Harvard University in the US was top dog, and national champions. This week they were summarily handed their collective arse in a sling by a team from Eastern Correctional Facility.

For those of you not familiar with Newspeak, or my fictional character Lee Roy, a correctional facility is what real people would call a jail. Eastern is a high security clink in Wawarsing (crazy name, crazy place) which I believe to be in New York state. This would explain at least in part the Eastern bit of the title.

Eastern offers a behind bars education programme, run by the good burghers of Bard College, a private college just down the road, and the lags have their work cut out. They have no internet access, and all they learn has to come from their teachers and good old fashioned books, so they must have really knuckled down.

On the way to the debate where they tackled Harvard, they’d already shown good form. They stomped all over a team from West Point military academy (a cynic might suggest that shouldn’t be too hard), then took the University of Vermont to the cleaners. When it came to the Harvard debate, they had an unenviable task of defending a proposition they didn’t agree with. To wit they had to argue for the proposition that state funded schools should have the right to turn away students not legally resident in the US. I rather imagine the Harvard team wish they’d got to argue that one.

As it went, Harvard were shot down in flames. To their credit they were gracious in defeat, claiming that, ‘There are few teams we are prouder of having lost a debate to than the phenomenally intelligent and articulate team we faced this weekend.’

I imagine that statement, and indeed the whole story, may annoy the hang ‘em and flog ‘em brigade, who think that breaking rocks in the midday sun is a more fitting way to treat lifers. My view? I’d like to shake the hand of the guy from Bard who got the programme rolling. Since prisons are often little more than schools for crime, I think this initiative is a stormingly good idea

By the way, the debate took place in the prison, so the prisoners didn’t get a day out, and the Harvard team doubtless got their eyes opened. The jail doesn’t look a lot like the Harvard campus, does it?ecf