October 2015 Faculty Spotlight
October Faculty Spotlight with Visiting Professor, Byron E. Price
Both fascinating and devastating, the harsh realities of our prison system are something too few consider, yet many are affected by. We welcome Visiting Professor Byron E. Price, who speaks to us about this grim yet vital topic.
Can you briefly tell us how you believe the privatization of prisons is a return to legalized slavery?
The 13th Amendment states that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” It is my assertion that legalized slavery has never been abolished given the fact the 13th amendment allows slavery and involuntary servitude in instances where a crime has been committed and a conviction for that crime. The privatization of prisons is a different manifestation of forced bondage systems such as slavery, Jim Crow, and the sharecropping system. Each system targeted people for their labor, paid little or no money at all, and each benefited financially from the labor of those enslaved. They are called investors now instead of slave master.
Do you think prisons will ever truly be a fully public institution in America?
The days of prisons remaining solely public I believe are over considering the amount of money private corporations make off of mass incarceration (multi-billion dollar industry). Another trend I think that will increase the privatization of prisons is the increasing xenophobia Americans are displaying, which has led to increasing federal privatization of detention centers. Taken together, the increasing move toward a service based economy and the total elimination of manufacturing jobs, which at one point provided livable wages, and the increasing economic inequality will ensure that America leads the world in imprisonment. As a result, it is my prediction that private prisons are here to stay.
What courses will you be teaching during the upcoming 2015-16 academic year?
I am teaching Public and Nonprofit Management and Privatization and Market-Based Government.
What do you believe will you be able to accomplish at the School of Public Affairs that you haven’t so far in your career?
I have wanted for some time to lead a national de-carceration campaign and the Ackerman Chair and affiliation with the School of Public Affairs has provided me with the right leadership, environment, and infrastructure to undertake such an effort. I also would like to create a Social Justice and Civil Rights Initiative for high school students as a way to teach them about the basics of the political process, building socially conscious campaigns, engaging in the political process with a goal of placing trained individuals with community organization, and directing passions effectively to larger social moments. Another goal of the high school initiative is to create a college pipeline and develop the next set of future leaders.