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Binghamton Speech & Debate

Proposition: Sam Burns (Santa Clara University) vs. Opposition: Ryan Jaffe (Winston Churchill High School)

Judge: Brandon Evans (Binghamton University)

Resolution: This house believes that prisons should be abolished

  • Sam Burns
    Sam Burns

    Ryan Jaffe
    Ryan Jaffe
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    Speech Details

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    Posted at April 21, 2015 12:17:44AM EST by Sam Burns



    Hi Im Sam Burns from Wood River High School and this is my proposition constructive. Let us begin.
    I stand in firm affirmation of the resolution that This house believes prisons should be abolished.

    I bring into this round two definitions:

    Abolish: Formally put an end to or greatly reduce.

    Capitalism - An economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.

    Contention 1 -Due to capitalism, prisoners and state economies are exploited.
    There are more than 2 million inmates serving time in the United States, up from 744,000 in 1985. America has the world's highest incarceration rate, and the revolving door helps keep those prisons packed: A 2002 study by the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 52 percent of released convicts were back in jail within three years.
    "All of these things are terrible, but they are good for business," says Martin Roenigk, CEO of CompuDyne (Charts), a security software and hardware provider to the corrections and homeland security markets.

    In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education. In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons versus $5.7 billion on higher education.
    Since 1980, California has built one college campus. It has built 21 prisons. The state spends $8,767.00 per student per year. It spends about $50,000.00 per inmate per year.

    Prisons are not humane whatsoever. The World Health Organization has stated that solitary confinement for longer than a month constitutes torture. The California Prison system has recognized that long-term solitary, such as is administered in Pelican Bay, drives people insane.

    Contention 2 - Capitalism is harmful

    Capitalism leads to a Violent Relationship toward the Other

    1. Identity is relationalWe constitute our identity, or a Self, by relating ourselves to the Other, which is the opposite of the Self, because we can only understand what our own existence is in terms of the other things we encounter, in terms of what we are not.

    2. Two ways of orienting ourselves to the Other: excluding the Other from the Self, or gesturing hospitably to the Other. We attempt to protect our own identity by violently expelling the non-Self to create a pure and exceptional self. But this approach is flawed because our identity is immanent to the identity of the Other. By denying the existence of the Other, we deny our own existence.

    3. We can only constitute value to our lives in a nonviolent fashion by maintaining hospitality to the Other. So hospitality to the Other is the very foundation of human existence, which transcends all other impacts and obligations, preceding questions the utilitarian calculus they engage in.

    4. Capitalism engenders a violent exclusion of the self in 4 ways:
    a. Rabid individualism: within the capitalist system, workers are compelled to pursue subsistence wages. Consequently, each laborer views the other as an enemy; an obstacle to his survival. This prevents true class- consciousness and the recognition of solidarity through common interests. This makes oppression inevitable and destroys value to life.
    b. Imperialism: Imperialist expansion is premised on exceptionalism, rendering foreign nations as inferior to ones own nation.
    c. Exploiting Nature: Capitalism creates a schism between humans and nature, artificially constructing nature as the self.
    d. Class conflict: Capitalism engenders class conflict because the divide between the ruling capitalist class and the workers creates two classes with directly opposed interests.

    The alternative: Embrace restorative justice
    What is restorative justice?
    Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused or revealed by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders.
    Practices and programs reflecting restorative purposes will respond to crime by:
    1. identifying and taking steps to repair harm,
    2. involving all stakeholders, and
    3. transforming the traditional relationship between communities and their governments in responding to crime.
    Some of the programs, which are currently organized by the system which is why we dont gain all the benefits, and outcomes typically identified with restorative justice include:
    Victim offender mediation
    Victim assistance
    Ex-offender assistance
    Community service

    The prison system expresses a racialized class structure and the hyper-commodification of people. It is the renewed embodiment of the racial segregation that has always been at the core of US society. If we are to get beyond capitalism, all institutions of commodification of persons must be expunged. Eliminating the prison and its ethic will not eliminate capitalism, but to get beyond capitalism, special attention must be paid to the prison system, and to the culture that accepts it as normal.
    The main cultural transformation underlying restorative justice is a prioritization of the rebuilding of social and political institutions from the bottom, a culture focused on the constitution of alternate political structures. At present, there are experiments in California in the organization of restorative justice circles in some middle and high schools. But they are organized from the top, with police control, and thus come nowhere near the real meaning of restorative justice processes.

    Heres how I solve the problem.
    1. We reject commodificationrestorative justice posits that everything has an intrinsic value. This solves by changing the fundamental theses of production and value to one that does not allow the capitalist to define value. In restorative, everything will always have value even when crimes have been committed.

    2. Capitalism is fundamentally incompatible with restorative justice because violent expansionism are necessary to succeed in the capitalist system, whereas restorative justice promotes harmonic coexistence with one another.

    3. Restorative justice reforms our relationship to the Other to be one that embraces differencerestorative justice co-exists peacefully with things around it because it respects natural interdependent relationships, which means it recognizes the symbiosis between the Self and the Other.


    Posted at April 22, 2015 12:52:50AM EST by Ryan Jaffe



    Robbins, Ira. The Legal Dimensions of Private Incarceration. The American University Law Review, 1988. <>

    Wright, Kevin. Strange Bedfellows? Reaffirming Rehabilitation and Prison Privatization. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 2010.
    < affirming_Rehabilitation>

    Moore, Adiran T. Private Prisons: Quality Corrections at a Lower Cost. Reason Foundation. 1999. Web. 4 Nov 2014.

    Hartney, Christopher & Glesmann, Caroline . Prison Bed Profiteers: How Corporations Are Reshaping Criminal Justice in the U.S. National Council on Crime and Delinquency. May 2012. Web. 4 Nov 2014.
    < profiteers.pdf>.

    Gilroy, Leonard C. Public-Private Partnerships for Corrections in California: Bridging the Gap Between Crisis and Reform. Reason Foundation. April 2011. Web. 4 Nov 2014. <>.

    Parker, Clifton B. Stanford experts urge major reforms in state, local government budgeting. Stanford news. 21 Jan 2014. Web. 4 Nov 2014.

    When I said that I googled restorative justice:,

    Posted at April 22, 2015 11:25:54PM EST by Sam Burns



    Order is Opp/Prop
    My opponent says that Capitalism helps these for profit prisons he is arguing for, which is effectively saying it helps them function as good, efficient moneymakers. If private prisons create competitiveness in prisons thats bad because it means that it will now be a race to see who can cut costs the most in these prisons which mean prisoners suffer as it has been empirically shown when companies like GEO have actually cut staff to save money, creating an unsafe environment where they have been criticized for creating a situation that fosters civil rights abuses.
    For example, a spreadsheet of lawsuits compiled by Private Corrections Working Group/Private Corrections Institute lists hundreds of lawsuits filed against GEO Group, many of which were settled before trial. The suits range from allegation of inmate death and abuse, excessive force, medical neglect as well as allegations of employment discrimination.
    When my opponent says that job growth is enough to outweigh this suffering then they are being an advocate for capitalism that will continue to exploit people without an qualms which is bad. Only the proposition attempts to break down these types of justifications that only allow for more violence because they can get one more job, or an increase in net revenue. Profits should never come before human lives. The Robins and Wright cards in their contention 1 all specify that they can create possible rehab centers but we see that they dont because that would cut into their profit margins. We ought to just abolish and cut out the middleman who has a conflict of interest. It does nothing to help the prisoners but only makes money for people like the GEO group who are the ones that determine what is helpful. My opponent say its the most efficent way because it goes past government but that just means there would be no regulation on potential abuse. My opponents contention 2 literally says PRIVATE PRISONS TRY TO REDUCE PERSONNEL COSTS WITHOUT UNDERSTAFFING THE FACILITY. This is a dangerous game they are playing where they will always look for one more way to save money at the expense of the prisoners because they do end up creating understaffed and unsafe prison to guard ratios which creates a catalyst for violence. They say its innovative and they are just testing out new designs but we see these designs come at the expense of the well being of the inmates. Pushing the bounds of how few people we can have running these facilities is very sketchy and has backfired. My opponent say private prisons use 1/3rd of officials as in government which leads to not only backlogs but risks that prisoners dont get the help they need. Prisons will always say this is a better system because of how effective it is, but the effectiveness comes from saving money, not from actually bringing about justice and integrating them into the community.
    His Hartney card even acknowledges how private prisons are a mess saying there are ways we can decrease our need for them. So I agree with Hartney, these private prisons have so many flaws, so lets just get rid of them.
    Their contention 3 says they save money which is not what our focus should be. My opponent goes on to praise the GEO on how much money they save. Yes, they save themselves a lot of money, but they do it at the expense of their prisoners. Saving money should not justify the rights abuses that are extremely common in these private prisons.
    My C1: They just say its efficient and reforms they will mention later can solve. They never mention what these are. My opponent is arguing for more of the status quo which is ridden with prisoner abuse and recidivism. They say reforms can work, but never get into specifics meaning you prefer my way of solving as compared to their unwarranted and not even mentioned plan of action.
    They say there is no link for my c2 because it's only ontological garbage. To classify people's struggles and oppressions when labeled as the other as garbage is the exact type of logic that allows for capitalism to harm those. This is not an answer so go ahead and extend all the harms of capitalism such as: When capitalism justifies the use of prisons to save money which they literally talk about then yes, it clearly does link into the resolution and is a reason to abolish.
    They say there is no reason to not be able to have both restorative justice and prisons through efficient means. This is not true and in fact various private prisons corporations brag about how often people commit crimes because they make more money to house these repeat offenders. Even the definition they read never mentions prisons in that equation and their attempt to shoehorn prisons into that will only mean they co opt it rather than looking for actual change because they have economic incentive to keep the status quo of prisons. Restorative justice must be organized from the bottom, not from the top such as when cops would attempt to create restorative justice but would not even come close to the true goal. There is no reason they can supposedly keep prisons and have restorative justice when there is no empirical evidence to support the idea that prisons would want to do something that could jeopardize their profitable business.

    They say I offer no real reason why we can't have private prisons or other prisons for that matter. The systemic problems in the prison system are why we shouldn't and there are real alternatives that are the only true path to deconstructing capitalism rather than dismissing it as ontological garbage as my opponent would rather do.


    Posted at April 24, 2015 01:42:57AM EST by Ryan Jaffe



    None available for this speech.

    Posted at April 25, 2015 01:15:05AM EST by Sam Burns



    None available for this speech.


    This match has been completed. Show the Decision.

    Submitted at April 26, 2015 10:31:06PM EST by Brandon Evans

    Category Sam Burns Ryan Jaffe
    Use of evidence: 5 4.5
    Delivery skill: 4 4.5
    Coherence of arguments: 4 3.5
    Responsiveness to opponent: 4 3.5
    Identification of key points: 4 3.5
    Comments: If you are going to speak faster than conversation speed, please use better audio recording equipment. Try to more directly respond to the specificity of the proposition's case and the resolution. See below.

    The decision is for the Proposition: Sam Burns

    Reason for Decision:

    Good debate, and a high tech one at that. I appreciate that both sides, while speaking faster than average, still respected that this is a public debate format and spoke slowly and clearly enough to be accessible to a lay person.

    Both sides are guilty of accusing the other side of doing things that they do themselves. This isn't uncommon, but in this debate, it was fairly important. The proposition accuses the opposition of not showing empirical reasons for why prison reform is feasible. This is correct (Beyond the opposition's explanation of how public prisons could reduce costs, which I will get to in a bit), but then when the opposition accuses him of not having a real solution or alternative to prisons, I similarly do not get a response. Yes, there is a discussion of restorative justice, but 1. I see this primarily as an alternative mechanism of engagement, not necessarily a concrete replacement for prisons, and 2. The specific application of restorative justice to prisons fades away as the debate progresses. So, while I am skeptical of how prisons can be reformed to solve any of the harms the proposition outlines, I also am not sure exactly what world I am voting for on the proposition.

    What ends up being the deciding factor is that I do not think the opposition really shows why abolishing prisons would be worse than the status quo. If this debate was over whether or not private prisons should be abolished in favor of public prisons, the opposition would be way ahead. However, the opposition's analysis is not comparative to a world with no prisons. Yes, private prisons might allow for the system to become more "efficient", which you claim would save money, and theoretically could also prevent abuses, but neither of these things could conceivably be an issue in a world where prisons do not exist. I wish the proposition directly argued this, but this is intuitive to the point that I cannot imagine any other way of thinking about this.

    Further, I do not fully understand what the impact of reducing spending is in the first place. This is especially true in a debate where the proposition is advocating for the abolition of capitalism. The opposition tries to use this argument to prove that abolishing prisons leads to more economic exploitation, which is what the proposition's first contention attempts to solve, but it seems that these are two different types of harms. I do not think I could weigh the harms of increased state spending over the harms of exploiting prisoners for labor and putting them through solitary confinement. The closest you get to impacting this argument is by saying that we could then use the money for other programs, but 1. Again, abolishing prisons eliminates 100% of the funding, 2. I do not get an explanation as to why these programs are more important than stopping the exploitation that the proposition is focusing more on as the speeches progress.

    What I really wish was more developed was the argument the opposition makes at the very end about how abolishing prisons would lead to anarchy. This type of argument should be at the center of your offense in this debate. That way, you could make a compelling case for why some form of prison is necessary, and there are ways of making prisons less abusive to resolve the harms of the proposition's case without abolition. I think I primarily hear the latter in this debate. The anarchy claim is only made in one sentence in the rebuttal, and I need an explanation of the harms anarchy would produce beyond just stating that it would lead to anarchy.

    In the end, I conclude that prisons do massive violence to others / the Other through capitalist exploitation. The prison system will only reform insofar as it increases profits, which could potentially have positive side-effects, but will still always fall short of preventing abuse. Without having a compelling reason for why prisons are necessary in spite of this abuse, I conclude that prisons should be abolished.

    Thank you again for participating, and good luck with the rest of the competition!


    I like to see online this amazing blog get free fortnite skins generator it has to be great enjoyments to all of you. - jack wisdon on July 11, 2021 at 12:33PM EST
    Thanks so much for all your feedback Brandon! Ryan, this was a fun debate, good luck in the future! - Sam Burns on April 26, 2015 at 10:59PM EST

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