#Roommates, get into this interesting story. A 25-year-old debate coach is helping inmates at the Statesville Correctional Center lead a weekly debate group, and their latest argument has lawmakers listening. They’re trying to get lawmakers to consider parole possibilities for crimes that some would say “hell to the naw” too.
According to Yahoo, all of the men on the debate team are serving life sentences, many for murder. They’re hoping that with the help of their debate coach Katrina Burlet they can achieve the unthinkable.
“I was first on a competitive debate team in college and we were engaging in a lot of debates about the criminal justice system,” she said. “I felt like the fact no one from the criminal justice system was involved in them was a very big hole that needed to be filled.”
Most of the inmates were convicted fresh out of their teens. “We talk about victims a lot in our debate about parole,” Katrina said.
The prisoners take their debate meetings really serious. One of their exercises involves them putting themselves in the shoes of the people they killed. Michael Simmons is currently serving a life sentence for armed robbery and murder. He said he still thinks about the words his victim’s mom said to him at his sentencing.
“She said that she hoped that I would see the error of my ways and that I will make a change in my life,” he said. “And I decide to do something better in my life rather than waste it with more wrong decisions and choices. And, you know, her words stuck with me because of all the people she was still holding out hope for, it was me. The guy accused of killing her best friend, her son.”
Last month, the inmates spoke to 20 state lawmakers at the facility about the possibility of parole. The prisoners argued that parole gives prisoners a chance to “rehabilitate and victims’ families a reason to re-evaluate.”
“I think that reconciliation is a very, very powerful thing,” Katrina said. “A lot of times when a relationship is broken or trust is broken, keeping those two parities apart forever is only going to solidify the wall that’s been built between them and everyone’s just going to stew in their own anger.”
One state senator told WGN’s Ben Bradley that he was pleased to see the men advocating for a change to the system but also said, “Let’s not forget the reason these men are in prison, or their victims.”