CHICAGO (CBS)—A one-of-a-kind program designed to strengthen the bond between jailed parents and their children is helping to build relationships during tough times.
Inside the concrete walls of Division 11 at the Cook County Jail, some detainees have yet to go to trial.
Many inmates are still connected to their families, and the game of chess is a new way some of them are continuing to bond with their kids while behind bars.
Not all the inmates CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov spoke to were willing to discuss the details of their cases, but they talked about how playing chess with their children on the outside has brightened their dark days behind bars.
Watching his daughter on the other side of the chess board displayed on a video screen, Lavar Haywood says,”Hey daughter, how ya doin’? Gonna beat me today?”
Dads can head to the library inside the jail for pre-scheduled games of virtual chess with their kids, who go to Mount Carmel High School to play the virtual game.
Haywood is awaiting trial on a felony gun charge. He plays chess with all three of his kids, who try to make the trip every month.
“It keeps us goin’–from a distance away,” he said. “The chess game makes us (interact) more than we would outside,” Haywood said.
His daughter agrees.
“I guess this brings us closer,” Amiracle O’Neal said about playing virtual chess with her dad. “We talk a lot more–we laugh a lot more.”
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says that connectivity is the key.
“They’re now in a position where they’re like instructors to their children and in some cases they’ve never had that role before,” he said. “It just changes dynamics.”
In Raymon Anderson’s case, it’s given him a relationship with his daughter.
“Now as I, again, rekindle my feelings and talking to her, have that line of communication, she tells me, ‘Dad I was hurt. Dad I was sad.’ I never knew that.”
Sheriff Dart’s 17-year-old son Tommy is the brainchild behind the program—the only one in the country.
Because the program is still new, it’s impact is undefined.
Logistics can be pose a challenge.
In Anderson’s case, his daughter, who he expected to show up, never made it. He sat alone in the jail library waiting for her to appear on the screen, but she never came.
Now, he’ll have to wait another month to match wits with his 12-year-old again.
“I never had anyone in my life,” Anderson said. “Even though they was there in the house, but they wan’t paying attention to me, like I wasn’t paying attention to my daughter. Now I’m able to talk to her and have that father–daughter relationship.”