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Binghamton Speech & Debate

Proposition: Leslie Serrano (Wood River High School) vs. Opposition: Madeleine Stevens (Winston Churchill High School)

Judge: Lucy Peterson (Bard High School Early College)

Resolution: This house believes that prisons should be abolished

  • Leslie Serrano
    Leslie Serrano

    Madeleine Stevens
    Madeleine Stevens
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    Speech Details

    Click on the other tabs to watch watch that speech.

    Posted at April 13, 2015 06:51:12PM EST by Leslie Serrano



    speech (citations at the bottom)
    I affirm the following resolution This house believes that prisons should be abolished
    For further clarification i offer the following definition
    Prison abolition a political vision with the goal of eliminating most imprisonment, and creating lasting alternatives to punishment and imprisonment.
    Abolition isnt just about getting rid of buildings full of cages. Its also about undoing the society we live in because prisons both feed on and maintain oppression and inequalities through punishment, and violence,
    I also offer the following observations:
    1 we must admit that prisons can't be reformed, since the very nature of prisons requires brutality
    2 we must recognize that prisons are used mainly to punish poor and working class people
    3. we must replace prisons with different alternative programs.
    4. there are psychopaths and other people in any society who are too dangerous to be allowed to walk freely. Restraint in this case would be the only option and such people may have to be isolated from others for their own, and others, safety. Perhaps mental hospitals would be used, or an area quarantined for their use created (perhaps an island, for example). However, such cases (we hope) would be rare.
    5 .Prisons perpetuate and enable violence putting someone in a cage is violent in itself. Prisoners experience violence through physical and psycho-emotional assault, sexual assault and rape, harassment and neglect of many needs, especially health needs. Violence is also manifested in huge patterns of self harm and suicide, inside and outside prison, before and after sentences and interactions with the criminal justice system.

    Contention 1 Alternatives to imprisonment
    Elsewhere it has been shown that prisons provide no real safety for society and no real reform of criminals. Most people realize this, at least insofar as they agree that crime is generally caused by social factors and in the long run can be dealt with only by changes in the social and economic spheres. Why the logical next step of abolishing the prison system is not made seems to be because, as with other aspects of our society, it is easier to fall back on a distant and impersonal system that already exists than to try to create new alternatives.

    The elimination of imprisonment may at first seem like a radical step, but alternatives to imprisonment are already widespread-fines and probation are often used, and traffic law violators are sometimes sentenced to attend classes in driver education. The advocacy of prison abolition implies simply that other courses of action
    Contention 2- Destabilizes Communities
    prisons and rampant policing have served to destabilize our communities, largely communities of color and poor communities - removing family members from our communities, draining resources for essential social services, and pushing us to fear each other. Individuals can lose their jobs, homes and possessions, as well as loose or deeply affect their relationships with children, parents and other family, lovers, friends and social ties.
    Today's prison system should be abolished because it is a system predesigned and constructed to warehouse the people of undeveloped and lower economical communities. Under the existing social order men and women are sent to prison for labor and further economical gain by the state. Where else can you get a full day's work for two to sixteen cents an hour, and these hours become an indeterminate period of years. This is slave labor in 20th century America
    Contention 3
    Reconciliation is better than punishment

    Abolition does not mean that we don't hold people accountable for their actions. But punishment creates the opposite of accountability -- a sense of social isolation instead of responsibility to others. If anything, punishment makes future harm more likely since it encourages people to lash out. People who have seriously harmed another need appropriate forms of support, supervision and social and economic resources. We don't claim to have all the answers. In reality, we know that the dominance of prisons as a response to harm has kept many alternatives from developing. Though alternatives exist. In post-apartheid South Africa, for example, rather than try, punish and potentially imprison those who had done harm to others under apartheid, the new government set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission heard testimony of people who took responsibility for their actions and were held accountable without imprisonment. While the system may not have functioned perfectly, it does provide an alternative model for even horrendous offenses such as the genocide that occurred under apartheid. Abolitionists believe Basically reconciliation instead of punishment, is the proper response to criminal acts. The present criminal (in)justice systems focus on someone to punish, caring little about the criminal's need or the victims loss. The abolitionist response It seeks to restore both the criminal and the victim to full humanity, to lives of integrity and dignity in the community. Abolitionists advocate the least amount of coercion and intervention in an individual's life and the maximum amount of care and services to all people in the society.

    "An Argument for the Abolition of the Prison System." Property Is Theft. N.p., 31 Aug. 2009. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <>.

    "1. TIME TO BEGIN." Instead of Prisons Chapter 1. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <>.

    "What Is the Prison Industrial Complex? | Prison Abolition UK." Prison Abolition UK. N.p., 30 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <>.

    "What We Believe." Prison Abolition Movement. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2015. <>.

    Posted at April 15, 2015 02:24:41AM EST by Madeleine Stevens



    Ferrell in 1998 (Jeff, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Northern Arizona University, Against the Law: Anarchist Criminology, Social Anarchism #25,

    Brown in 2006 Wendy Brown. Prof of Political Science @ UC- Berkley. Regulating Aversion: Tolerance in the Age of Identity and Empire 2006.

    Brown 15 (Lydia Brown,

    Posted at April 15, 2015 11:12:15PM EST by Leslie Serrano



    Instead of abolishing prisons my opponent states we should solve the problem by getting to the root of the problem. Which in this case is the state or the government. She says we must revolt against the state and thus reject ti entirely. Within an anarchy no one has control. A government is not present to protect its people from crime. In an anarchy it's survival of the fittest because their is no governing body that would punish wrong doers for their crimes. People would be acting in their own self interest and their would be a sense of loss of control. There would be a bigger sense of abuse since the powerful would take over the weak and their would be no one to stop it. In the Negs world their would be even more vice and crime. Not only this, but there are only two future ways the negs world will end in. One a government is formed after people can't take the chaos of anarchy anymore. Thus bringing us back to the where we started. Two the society will end up in a worse place than before because there is no governing body to punish people for their crimes. Thus leaving the weak at the wrath of the strong. I would like to add that if we get rid of the government (which is what she suggests) who are in charge of establishing prisons then we would be abolishing prisons. We would therefore be affirming the resolution and carrying on to the affs side. Thus in the Negs world we aren't solving the problem. With her alternative we will either go back to where we started (and not solving the problem) or abolishing prisons and affirming the resolution. Now onto the affs case. ( numbers correspond to negs counterclaims.) 1. At least we are putting them in a place where they could get help. If we follow the negs solution then there will be more crime and vice than if we follow the affs solution. 2. Like I said at least we are helping some people. In an anarchy the people are wosres. They have to fend for themselves; thus creating more crime. 3. Overriding motive for survival. At least in the affs world their is control. In the next world where anarchy is prevailing than that motive for for survival will be seen everywhere creating more crime. 4. I said probation, fines, reconciliation, instead of punishment.5, Reject the system by using my alternatives instead of imprisonment. In the affs world we solve the problem while in the neg there is more crime and we abolish prisons. THis why we should aff.

    Posted at April 17, 2015 02:15:39AM EST by Madeleine Stevens



    Peter T. Leeson. Better off stateless: Somalia before and after government collapse. Journal of Comparative Economics. 35:4. 12/2007, 689-710. DT.

    Ferrell in 1998 (Jeff, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice, Northern Arizona University, Against the Law: Anarchist Criminology, Social Anarchism #25,

    Posted at April 18, 2015 12:49:35AM EST by Leslie Serrano



    "Is Anarchism a Bad Thing?" Is Anarchism a Bad Thing? N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2015. <>.


    This match has been completed. Show the Decision.

    Submitted at April 19, 2015 01:56:50PM EST by Lucy Peterson

    Category Leslie Serrano Madeleine Stevens
    Use of evidence: 3.5 3
    Delivery skill: 4.5 3
    Coherence of arguments: 4 4.5
    Responsiveness to opponent: 4 4.5
    Identification of key points: 4.5 5
    Comments: Dear Leslie,
    Excellent work in this debate! You are a skilled speaker, and I was captivated by the way that you presented yourself. I thought the example of the Truth and Reconciliation Committees was an excellent one, and a very unique choice. You did a good job of explaining why prisons were a drain on society, and the alternatives you came up with were realistic and compelling. Next time, I would challenge you to bring in even more specific information into your argument because sometimes it felt like you were relying on generalities instead of being concrete. There were a number of points when your videos cut out, so it became hard to follow your arguments, but overall, I thought you did a beautiful job, and playing it "safe" in comparison to your opponent ended up being a good thing. One major flaw of your rebuttal was that you relied on speculation. You assumed that anarchy would pave the way to the same kind of prison system or an even worse new government. While this might be true, you didn't prove why that's the case. You did return to this point, however, by explaining that those with weapons will win out in an anarchy, and that argument is why you won the debate. Good job on a very challenging and complex debate!
    Dear Madeleine,
    Thank you so much for making this debate so interesting. Your unique take made this topic even more challenging that it already is, and I admire your willingness to take risks with radical and leftist arguments. You did a good job of laying out the framework that the problem lies with the law and not with the specific institution of prisons, but I was not fully convinced by the way you showed that. More specific evidence instead of quotes would have made your argument stronger. I certainly understand and respect the argument you were making, but it is important to remember to show your arguments and not tell them. Your section of your rebuttal when you challenged the proposition based on the fact that her alternatives were all punitive was an excellent point. You explained how each of her alternatives were punitive, except you did not address the reconciliation committee idea. Since she spent a great deal of time arguing that modeling a truth and reconciliation committee would be an alternative to more traditional styles of punishment, I would have liked to see you address that idea with a bit more detail instead of just dismissing it as punitive. You made a good defense of anarchy with the example of Somalia but you did fail to address the propositions point that the possession of weapons would determine who had power in whatever new regime was created, and you did not successfully convince me that anarchy was a sustainable system. The proposition was adamant about saying that anarchy would necessarily give way to something more stable, and I did not hear you address that. Ultimately, I think you bit off more than you could chew, which ended up letting you slip into defending the Proposition instead of your own side. Had you spent more time carefully explaining the distinction between the abolition of prisons and the dismantling of the state, you certainly could have taken the win. However, I thought the argument you made to show this, that all institutions are prisons, did not employ language precisely enough, and therefore, the argument was built on a shaky foundation. One last small comment is to slow way down. When you talk too fast, your arguments get lost.Despite all of this, I am very impressed with the work that you did here, and you should keep up the good work!

    The decision is for the Proposition: Leslie Serrano

    Reason for Decision:

    First off, let me say that this was among the most challenging debates to judge. You both did beautifully. You dealt with each others complexities with generosity and respect, and you should both feel incredibly proud of the work you put in in order to produce these speeches. Ultimately, the win goes to Leslie Serrano of the Proposition because she had more solid evidence than Madeleine from the Opposition. Madeleine attempted to make an Opposition argument that called for the abolition of the state and not solely the prison, but in the end she was unsuccessful at proving how the abolition of the state would counter the problems of injustice highlighted by the Proposition. The Proposition, who was loyal to a much more conservative argument, had better evidence and made strong counterarguments against the Opposition's solution of anarchy. While the Opposition made incisive critiques of the alternatives proposed by the Proposition, explaining that Leslie's solutions mirrored the methods of the prison since they were all punitive, that rebuttal was not strong enough to prove that justice would follow from anarchy based on the Proposition's point that weapon-holders, i.e. the government/military would be the power-holders in the post-anarchy world as well. Kudos to you both!

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