Spring 2023 Emeriti Lecture: Peace Teachers In and From Soledad Prison

UCSC Distinguished Professor Emeritus John Brown Childs headlines Emeriti Lecture

UCSC Distinguished Professor Emeritus John Brown Childs.

Eighteen years ago, distinguished UCSC Professor Emeritus John Brown Childs began offering courses at Soledad Correctional Facility. His “Transcommunal Peacemaking and Cooperation” class has become a necessary part of dozens of incarcerated men’s rehabilitation at Soledad Prison.

Transcommunality is rooted in the Native American philosophy of unity and diversity created by the peacemaker Deganawidah in the early 15th century. At Soledad, concepts within transcommunality, such as “constructive disputing” and “working together,” have resonated with inmates the most. Childs says that since the course’s inception almost two decades ago, the original students have become the teachers of transcommunality within Soledad.

“The men with whom I work have a very positive, very proactive sense of self-determination,” Childs said. “They want to do well, they want to do good, and so they were already moving in that direction themselves. What I found I could offer was a sustaining resource framework for them.”

Childs says that those who participated in the courses while incarcerated have a zero recidivism rate. In addition, many that leave Soledad go on to work in community and civic organizations, supporting school systems, and more. 

He adds that in times of hatred, violence, and mistrust in the nation and worldwide, the Soledad Peace Teachers offer key examples of non-violence and mutually respectful cooperation.

“They believe in the peacemaking message of transcommunality, and they try very much to enact it in their lives,” Childs said. “And given that they have come out of tough circumstances, transforming their lives personally into positive ones is a great development.”

On April 11 at 6:30 pm, Childs will present at  the Spring 2023 Emeriti Faculty Lecture, “Peace Teachers In and From Soledad Prison,” where he will speak about his experience teaching transcommunality to the inmates of Soledad and will showcase a video taken by the students. 

“They have pushed the idea of transcommunality out even further in ways that I hadn’t thought about,” Childs said. “I’ve seen it work inside the prison over and over again in a very positive and affirming way.” 

In 2022 Childs earned the University of California’s system-wide highest honor for emeriti faculty, the Constantine Panunzio Distinguished Emeriti Award. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the UC Santa Cruz.

Click here for more information on the Spring 2023 Emeriti Lecture with John Brown Childs, to register for the event, or to join the live stream.