The subject was nothing less than the future of the planet.
Inside a fortress of high walls, razor wire and guard towers, two teams were debating whether the United States should impose a tax on greenhouse gas emissions.
“Resolved,” announced the first debater, James Keown.
“Global climate change fueled by the unchecked emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere is wreaking havoc on our planet,” he said. “We can do better. We must do better.”
As corrections officers watched closely, Keown and four other prisoners began the revival of the once-legendary debating society at the state prison known as MCI-Norfolk. Sharing the stage were five opponents from the Boston College debate team.
Through the windows of the old, high-ceilinged auditorium, light streamed onto the stage. In the house were a couple hundred inmates — and the ghosts of a prison past.
“We needed to bring back the Norfolk Debating Society,” Keown said. “It’s been 53 years — …