ICIO inmates learning chess

Inmates play chess in classroom
Photo by David Manley, ICIO
By Lt. Greg Heun, Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino

Chess4Life volunteer Sandy Staab’s dream of teaching chess to inmates took years to come to fruition.  

“I can’t think of a more therapeutic game [for inmates] than chess.  Their bodies are trapped, but their minds need not be.” 

This chess class recently started at ICIO and Mr. Staab noted “I don’t teach chess just for fun,” Staab writes.  “It is a true ministry to me.”  

He says chess teaches logic, memory, and IQ skills while building what he refers to as “social stamina” – the ability to compete vehemently with a person yet remain friends off the board.  

“This skill is especially lacking,” Staab writes, as “Social Justice Warrior types will … unfriend me on Facebook if I don’t agree with them on some philosophical issue.  This kind of intolerance for a diverse opinion fractures our society,” Staab says.  

Inmates certainly can benefit with practice in this type of social propriety. Chess4Life, a national chess association founded in 2005, is facilitating this group at ICIO aimed at teaching new players and coaching existing players to build both chess and life skills.

ICIO Instructor David Manley knew of Staab’s work with local school districts, and he approached Staab and asked if he would be willing to bring a chess program to ICIO.  

Now, with the oversight and supervision of school staff, Staab’s goal of teaching chess to inmates has become a reality.

Story published: 12/13/2018
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