Community Prisons Prisons Why Chess? Chess offers inmates critical skills for life on the outside. It is a game of consequences that trains people to think before acting. Chess can help prisoners to think logically and solve problems, it develops sportsmanship and resilience and it teaches people to plan ahead and take responsibility for their actions. Chess can help to relieve the the inevitable isolation and boredom that comes from being locked up for long periods. We offer chess sets to prisoners who attend our courses for them to use during free association time and in their cells. Chess can help to build resilience and self-esteem and teach prisoners how to channel aggression and lose gracefully. Participation can not only improve health and behaviour but can directly contribute to efforts to reduce reoffending Positive sporting achievement can provide the motivation and skills for people to turn their lives around A readily available, purposeful activity Read more about the benefits of playing chess in prisons in this article by Professor Rosie Meek of Royal Holloway, University of London. CSC Prisons Chess in Schools and Communities delivers a regular chess club to 7 prisons. We are aiming to expand our presence further. HMP Wandsworth HMP Belmarsh ISIS HMP Wormwood Scrubs HMP Erlestoke- generously supported by The Walter Guinness Charitable Trust HMP Leeds HMP Liverpool HMP Thameside If you are interested in talking to us about developing a prison chess programme, please contact us. Testimonials It is no exaggeration to say that for some prisoners, being able to play and study chess is transformational, assisting with mental health and for others preventing isolation. For many it is a welcome distraction that passes time constructively. Our prisons coordinator Peter Sullivan writes: ''I saw something at XXXXXXX this week that brought a tear to my eye. There is a cell at the end of every wing with iron bars rather than a door, so officers can keep an eye on men at risk of self-harming. Sometimes officers are on 24-hour watch. I saw a man this week sitting in the middle of the floor hugging his knees. On the spur of the moment, I asked him if he could play chess. He nodded so I gave the officer a set. He said the man could not have it, he had no personal possessions not even bedsheets, but he set up the board on a plastic packing case. When I came back, they were both sitting on the floor playing. The prisoner could reach the pieces through the bars and another officer was suggesting a move. There was something about the starkness of the cell and the gentle way the officers were engaging with him that was quite moving.'' Read more about Peter's work in prisons here. ''The chess club is amazing. It stimulates the mind and makes being in prison that little bit easier. It also attracts the right kind of person you want to meet in prison. It is a natural filter. It keeps your mind active and in shape, a challenge when you are in prison. It would be nice to have the club more than once per week, it not to have it at all would be so wrong. It is such a positive plus for the prison. Chess club is hugely interactive, educational and most importantly massive fun! I like the welcoming and dynamic atmosphere most and find it very helpful in addressing rehabilitation.'' Inmates playing chess from their prison cells at Attica Correctional Facility, NY, 1972 | Cornell Capa ''I really enjoy Chess Club a lot. I’ve actually learned a lot since I started attending. I was taught a lot that I didn’t know. Plus it’s extra time out of my cell doing something I enjoy. When I was out of Prison I had no interest in chess. It was very complicated, and now I am really getting the hang of it. I reckon we should get more sessions weekly as every week more and more people want to get involved. And maybe even start doing competitions for prizes.'' World Online Prison Chess Champioships in HMP Wandsworth In May 2019 England was invited to take place in the International Online Word Chess prison Championships. The event was a collaboration between the efforts of Carl Portman (English Chess Federation and the author of the book Chess Behind Bars) and our charity led by Peter Sullivan. The event took place in the prison’s library. Andrew Smith, the chess volunteer on the day, tells us about the match: ''The library, although quite small and space restrictive, had a small meeting area with 6 computers surrounding the perimeter of the room. We set up our boards and our computers to play. The matches were a four board match with 15 minutes for each player (no increment). Unfortunately for our inmates, the prisoners were not allowed to access the internet at all. This was due to safety concerns around prisoners potentially contacting their victims over a social media platform. Each player had their own chess.com account, special accounts where all chat functions had been disabled. Unlike other prisons, it was us, the volunteers, who had to manually input all their moves.’’ Read more from Andrew here. Carl Portman, the Manager for Chess in Prisons of the English Chess Federation: ''The prisoners were part of a world first and that can never be taken away from them. The experience was rewarding, interesting and super productive. The team ethic and camaraderie between prisoners, facilitators and the prison staff were second to none.'' (...) ''Whilst it might be true that we never won a match, the experience was absolutely priceless and it was music to my hears to hear staff say comments like ‘This is the first time I have seen ‘him’ smile in long time, he never smiles’, or ‘Watching them work together was absolutely amazing’. There was no Braggadocio and no insults. Indeed, everyone was desperate for a win against one of the teams.'' Read more from Carl here. Chess in prisons around the world Canada: “Judges sentence youth offenders to chess, with promising results.” US - Rikers Island: “Chess is king in helping to educate inmates.” US - Cook County: “Sheriff introduces jail chess program.” US - New Jersey Trenton: “I just wish I’d discovered chess when I was 10.” US - Michigan FCI Milan: “In the streets there are no stalemates.” Russia: “Russia and US jail inmates in Skype chess tournament.” Italy: “Since I started attending the course, it seems to me I never have enough time.” France: “French Chess Federation partners with the Directorate of Judicial Youth Protection.” Jamaica: “Prison chess game to go Islandwide next year.” New Zealand: “Instead of fighting straight away I now think about the consequences.” Egypt. “We made chess out of soap.” Uruguay. “It was an escape from the reality of Prison life.” South Africa. “You discover a lot of things about yourself playing chess.” Inspirational stories about people who played chess in prison and turned their lives around Eugene Brown: The Big Chair Chess Club - think before you move: Eugene Brown’s experience of chess in prison inspired him to found a chess club for inner city children to keep them away from a life of crime. Celebrated in the film: Life of a King. Claude Bloodgood: Sentenced to death, commuted to life imprisonment, played thousands of correspondence games to a very high standard in prison. John Healy: Discovered a rare aptitude for chess in prison and beat titled players when he was released. Covered in his inspirational autobiography, The Grass Arena and the film Barbaric Genius. Genesis Potini: Played Chess in Prison and set up the Gisborne Eastern Knights Chess Club to encourage Maori children away from drugs and crime. Immortalised in the film: The Dark Horse.