Submitted by Dian Grier, CCI Press Release
For the third consecutive year, CCI (California Correctional Institution at Tehachapi) has hosted the annual Ethics Bowl against California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB). This year was a tie breaker for CCI, with a 3-0 win. “Intellectual Sports” such as ethics bowls are gaining status and momentum throughout colleges in the United States. Every year, cases are developed by the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics and are used by all ethics teams nationwide. Ethics teams are given packets of case studies four to six weeks prior to the competition. These cases are real and hypothetical cases. The team prepares by considering the ethical implications of each case. At the competition, the two teams present their case, rebut and then answer questions from judges. This year the Ethics Bowl at CCI had judges including three doctorates, one MBA and a reporter from the Bakersfield Californian, who wrote an article that made front-page news in Bakersfield. See: for the full article with pictures.
The first case, in which CCI led, was called “A Miscarriage of Justice” and considered Alabama’s law that prosecutes pregnant women who the state feels have put their unborn child at risk. This case was presented based on a real case in which Alabama prosecuted a mother for the unexpected consequence of the death of her fetus. In this case, the mother started a verbal altercation, which turned into the other woman shooting her gun, which ricocheted and hit her fetus, killing it. The mother and victim of the shooting was brought up on charges for involuntary manslaughter by the state of Alabama. This case was complex ethically and CCI took the side that women should have rights over their own bodies, even during pregnancy, and that cases such as this one can be a slippery slope, ultimately denying too many women’s rights. CSUB agreed with CCI, adding their perspective to the case. CCI answered multiple questions from judges, clarifying their position and proving they had fully considered all aspects of the case.
The second case this year consisted of “Callout Culture,” which considered whether our “callout culture” or “cancel culture”—in which an individual is called out on social and regular media—is helpful in changing societal norms or hurting individuals who are put in the spotlight. The case considered if this behavior is activism or a dysfunctional new aspect of our social media-driven society. CSUB summarized that callout culture has some positives, but is not activism and is hurting society and individuals. CCI responded that there might be better ways to have conversations and foster a society of forgiveness instead of a society that points the finger and damages people’s reputation as well as careers. So again, the two sides agreed that this is not a positive for society, but both teams brought differing perspectives on how to address change.
After the Ethics Bowl, CSUB went on to compete in regionals, which took place December 7 in Phoenix, Arizona. CSUB asked if they could use CCI’s research for their event, which CCI offered. CSUB’s team consists of third-year philosophy students who practice weekly based on what they have learned throughout their classes.
After the event, the philosophy students asked the inmates about their plans for their futures. All of the five team members from CCI have plans for higher education or are currently attending college through Cerra Cosa University here at CCI. Robert Price, the well-known reporter from The Bakersfield Californian, commented on how poised and intelligent CCI’s team presented, which is a common remark by outside observers seeing the CCI Ethics Bowl for the first time.
CCI’s team puts in four hours of class time per week, preparing through research and practice. The group was developed and is coached by Dian Grier, LCSW, and is considered a mental health group designed to stimulate thinking and perceive the world through multiple lenses. The time the men put into this group helps them in multiple ways. Many of the inmates see the group as a chance to increase social and presentation skills, decrease levels of depression and anxiety, and find purpose within the prison environment. The group consists of 25 inmates who helped prepare for the bowl, but only five were chosen for the presenting team. The other team members were in the audience, cheering on their colleagues. The group consists of all ages, races and viewpoints, which add to the therapeutic benefits of the program. The group continues to discuss and practice throughout the year, reflecting on new ethical viewpoints and enjoying the process of expanding their thinking regarding their own moral opinions as well as ethics within society. This program is an excellent representation of the type of innovative rehabilitation CDCR and CCI are inventing and offering. Congratulations to the CCI team for their effort and achievement!