Chess classes for convicts in Brazil

11/2/2011 – It is an inspiring story: a chess trainer, Walter Ferreira Jr., has been working with the inmates of a correctional facility in Itaúna-MG, Brazil, where he has installed a library of chess books and the students play with sets they have fashioned out of bottle caps. The lessons are keenly followed, as is the lecture and simul of a visiting master. The project is drawing international attention.

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Chess classes for convicts in Brazil

By Walter Ferreira Junior

“I want to hear the pealing bells
Of distant churches sing
But most of all please free me
From this aching metal ring
And open out this cage towards the Sun”
Skyline Pigeon, Elton John

A chess teacher, ex-Brazilian college chess champion, ex-champion of the state, Walter Ferreira Júnior, has been administering chess classes for the rehabilitating convicts at APAC (Portuguese for "Association for Protection and Assistance to the Condemned") in Itaúna-MG, Brazil, a project which was created in early 2011. According to Ferreira “the proposed goals have been largely achieved. Today we have proper chess books in our library, while our own pieces and boards are made by the convicts, with plastic and bottle caps”. He explains that the main idea is that through chess, with its many advantages, the rehabilitees will be able to develop positive habits and exercise their capacity for making decisions.


Library of APAC-Itaúna corrective facilities


Chess trainer Walter Ferreira Júnior


Attention and concentration of the students


Training and discipline


Pieces made from bottle caps


Full concentration during the classes


The chess trainer playing against his students

The classes are held in the APAC’s library for the closed and half-open rehabilitees. The wardens support this kind of activity and encourage the men to take part in it. APAC-Itaúna is both nationally and internationally a reference when talking about rehabilitation of convicts. Almost every day there are people from all over the country and also from other parts of the world visiting the place, interested about taking the institution’s philosophy worldwide.

APAC of Itaúna is affiliated to the Prison Fellowship International (PFI), consultative part of the ONU (Organization of United Nations) for penitentiary subjects, and to the Brazilian Fraternity for Assistance of the Condemned (FBAC), an entity that gathers, supervises and supports all APACs in Brazil.

“Turn me loose from your hands
Let me fly to distant lands
Over green fields, trees and mountains
Flowers and forest fountains
Home along the lanes of the skyway”
Skyline Pigeon, Elton John

What is APAC? The Association for Protection and Assistance to the Condemned is a private rights civil entity, with its own juridical personality, dedicated to the recovery and social reintegration of those condemned to sentences without parole. Supported by the Federal Constitution to act inside prisons, it has its Statute guarded by the Civil Code and by the Penal Execution Law. APAC operates as an auxiliary entity for the Judiciary and Executive Powers, executing sentences and administrating them with this kind of alternative work.

Goals: The APAC’s goals are to promote humanization of the prison system without losing the first objective – to make the sentenced learn from their mistakes. The proposal is to avoid relapses to crime and offer alternative ways for the sentenced to recover.

Method: The APAC’s work consists of valorizing human kindness, offering to the condemned conditions to recover. It also looks, in a wider perspective, for the protection of the society and promoting justice and help to the victims.

The main difference between the APAC and the common prison system is that at APAC, the rehabilitees are co-responsible for their own recovery, and receive spiritual, medical, psychological and juridical assistance from the city community. Their discipline and safety are kept with their own cooperation, with volunteers, employees and managers, without the presence of the police.

They also have professional courses to avoid idleness and learn how to behave. Methodology is based on a rigid discipline, respect, work and family. Another difference is in the execution of the sentence is that it forces the condemned to stay in his own hometown.

First Chess Tournament APAC-Itaúna “Dr. Mário Ottoboni”

The event, which took place on July, had four pre-selected chess players chosen by the coordinator and referee Walter Ferreira, against four rehabilitees from APAC. The Schuring System was used, and Humberto Lima finished with 7.0 points from 7 games. The second and third places were decided by using the Amargeddon 6-5 tiebreak system. The current champion of the city was placed second.

Tournament table

Participants
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
Pts
D1
D2
D3
Place
1. Arthur Moreira
--
1
1
0
1
1
0
1
5
2
2
2
2. Convict Higor
0
--
0
0
½
0
0
0
½
0
0
0
7º/8º
3. Convict Glauber
0
1
--
0
1
0
0
1
3
-
-
-
4. Humberto Lima
1
1
1
--
1
1
1
1
7
-
-
-
5. Convict José Márcio 
0
½
0
0
--
0
0
0
½
0
0
0
7º/8º
6. Lucas Teixeira
0
1
1
0
1
--
1
1
5
2
2
3
7. Márcio Lunardy
1
1
1
0
1
0
--
1
5
2
2
1
8. Convict Itamar
0
1
0
0
1
0
0
--
2
-
-
-


The tournament under way, with city champion Márcio Lunardy in the foreground


The tournament champion Humberto Lima in action


In the background the administrative managers of APAC approve

Lecture and simultaneous games with Osmar Miranda

In October an amazing teacher and chess player was at APAC-Itaúna, where he held a lecture about “The Benefits of Chess for Life when a Looking Forward to the Future”. He also 20 members of the audience the chance to play against him in a simultaneous exhibition. He won 16 games, drawing 3 and losing one (to a Walter Ferreira’s student).

Osmar Miranda Silva Júnior is a psychologist with degrees in educational psychology from the PUC (Catholic University of Minas Gerais). He is also Brazilian Children's Chess Champion, Brazilian College Chess Champion and Vice-champion of the State of Minas Gerais. He is nowadays in eighth place in the Chess Federation of Minas Gerais raking.

Osmar Miranda touched on the following subjects in his lecture:

First, chess must be taught as a healthy, sporting activity, exercising the brain. it is an instrument for social inclusion and pedagogical tool. Chess is

  1. Sport
    T he second most practiced sport in the world
    There are competitions for all levels and ages
    Chess is recognised as an Olympic sport by National and International Committees

  2. A healthy activity
    A game that delivers complete "immersion" in the world of pieces and boards
    Integrates families, approaching children, parents and siblings
    You can enjoy it at very low costs

  3. Exercises the brain
    It is considered by experts in neurology, psychology and related sciences as the best of all exercises for the brain
    Chess develops logical and mathematical thinking, concentration, planning ability, memory, methodology of scientific thinking, self-control, abstract reasoning, decision making, etc.
    Chess players, even at an advanced age (over 75 years), retain the clarity factor, since the game prevents degenerative diseases of the mind.

  4. An instrument for social inclusion
    Players, by studying chess, realize that study can be a pleasure
    It forms a series of positive character traits, such as humility, patience, perseverance, discipline
    It creates an aesthetic perception of the game – understanding chess as an art

  5. A pedagogical tool
    Chess as a factor in increased self-esteem
    Chess as a possible career
    Chess as a possibility of pleasure in the midst of pain
    The chess as job prospects and incoming chances


Chess is a sport, exercise for the brain, an instrument for social integration...


The audience at the penitentiary is enthralled


A blitz game between Osmar Miranda and trainer Walter Ferreira


A simultaneous exhibition in the prison library


Inmates showing full concentration


Budding young players in the prison environment


In the end Osmar Miranda won 16 games, drew three and lost one

Relevant links

About the Author

Walter Ferreira Junior was born in Itaúna, in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil, on February 16, 1958. Currently he is preparing to take part in the World Amateur Chess Tournament in Greece, April 2012, maintaining a constant training and practicing on the Playchess server, in which he uses the nickname “Metamorfose” and has collected 568 applauses.

Walter Ferreira is a member of FIDE and has been to various events in Brazil and abroad:

  • Absolute Chess Champion of the State of Minas Gerais, 1980
  • Brazilian College Chess Champion, 1980
  • Former Assistant Referee of the Brazilian Confederation of Chess
  • Instructor certified in Chess Federation of the State of Minas Gerais since 1989
  • Vice-President of the Chess Federation of the State of Minas Gerais 1992/1993 Biennium

Three games by Walter Ferreira

Contact: genesisxadrez@hotmail.com / waltercomut@yahoo.com.br

Copyright Ferreira/ChessBase


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