Chess outlet for S. African prisoners

There are a lot of stories about how chess can individuals in a myriad of ways. Chess often finds a home in prison as the offenders can find the activity helpful in the coping process. Why chess?

Perhaps it is the ability to control one’s fate in a place where they are otherwise subjected to someone else’s total control. Maybe it’s a form of escape into a world of 64-square intrigue. Maybe it’s the idea that some inmates are able to channel their aggressive energy in a more disciplined fashion. (article about prison chess in U.S.)

A recent story about prison chess in South Africa highlights the efforts of the Gauteng South Chess Association at the Boksburg prison. Adam Wakefield reported that the 4000-count prison has helped the prisoners deal with the isolation and rejection that is often associated with the shame of incarceration.

Victor Modise, 28, four years away from release, is one of them.

“When I’m playing chess, I’m relaxed. I forget about most things here, about my problems. I grew up a hard way so I’m just trying to forget those things. In prison we get frustrated, and sometimes you get angry with yourself… ‘Why did I do that? How did I end up here’. When you are playing chess, you get relaxed and go down with it. You start thinking positively, and thinking of changing.”

Prison officials have collaborated and Warder Eric Mthenjwa contacted the GSCA for assistance said Boksburg Correctional Services spokesman Patrick Thobejane.

Having done our part reintegrating these guys back into society, we still have resistance from the public, in terms of stigmatising these offenders, even though we believe they are already changed people. So, having partners such as the GSCA, helps us in terms of incorporating these people, helping with public acceptance. We are about second chances,” he says.

South African player Daniel Cawdery serves as the chess coach at the prison and is planning on making frequent visits.

Link:Prisoners turn to chess for peace of mind,” IOL News, 23 March 2012.


  1. Daaim,

    Thank you for this piece. Chess-In-Prisons (“CIP”) is, in my respectful view, a crucial tool for rehabilitating inmates to reduce the risk of recidivism.

    We are pursuing some interesting opportunities in Jamaica along similar lines and will be speaking about this in the future.

  2. Pingback: The Chess Drum » Blog Archive » Chess outlet for S. African prisoners | Chess IQ
  3. Excellent piece Daaim, aggression is a natural activity “that must be channeled in a useful and constructive manner”! Note this equation…. A=Aggression N= Nuturing -D=-Direction =V =Violence as I have said many times violence is the manifestion of other problems, it is not the problem!

  4. My Son has been transferred to a boksburg prison. I have been out of the country for some time, but now have a chance to visit him just in time for the holiday season and will be visiting him in prison, but am not able to find physical address or contact information so I can find out more about him. Please help me get this information. thank you

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