August 29, 2008
In an effort to improve the educational programming available to
inmates at the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility on Staten Island,
St. John’s criminal justice professor Ellen Boegel Esq. teamed up
with the correctional facility to implement a series of debates
between St. John’s criminal justice students and debaters from the
medium security prison. Professor Boegel saw the debates as an
opportunity to create a cross-disciplinary Academic
Service-Learning project, exposing her students to a marginalized
portion of the legal studies and criminal justice systems.
Professor Boegel along with St. John’s criminal justice professors
Ralph Porzio and Angelo Pisani, Ph.D. were awarded a mini-grant by
the Office of Academic Service-Learning in the spring of 2008.
Grant monies are funding five separate debates, one which has
already happened and the rest which take place over the course of
the fall 2008 semester.
On June 23, 2008, four student volunteers from the Staten Island
campus participated in the first formal debate against the inmate
team, “The debate was an eye opening experience! It gave us
an opportunity to interact with a part of society which is shunned
from the world. I was really impressed by the articulate and
passionate nature of their positions,” noted Savreen Singh a
graduate student in the criminal justice program.
Kevin James, an undergraduate sophomore and government and
politics major; Sheku Mansaray, an undergraduate sophomore and
legal studies major; and Crystal Vera, a graduate student in the
social justice and global development program also represented St.
John’s during the debate.
The resolve for the debate was whether juvenile offenders should
be tried as adults. The student team was responsible for upholding
the affirmative, while the inmate team defended the negative. In
the end, the negative triumphed. Three panel judges, provided
by the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, unanimously voted in
favor of the inmates. The St. John’s team congratulated the
winning team with a standing ovation and friendly handshakes.
While leaving the correctional facility with the student team,
Professor Boegel took one last look at the facility. She
watched as St. John’s Professor and Superintendent of Arthur Kill
Correctional Facility, Dennis Breslin, shook hands with the inmate
team. It was clear that the inmates as well as the students had
benefited from this new service experience.
If you would like more information about this service program
and other Academic Service-Learning initiatives, please contact the
Office of Academic Service-Learning, Staten Island Campus at (718)