More than a game: How Cook County is using chess to prepare inmates for life on the outside
For at least a little while this week, the seven men wearing khaki scrubs with "DOC" emblazoned in big black letters across the back weren't just inmates in the Cook County jail.
They were representatives of the United States, doing battle with fellow inmates from Russia, Spain and Armenia in an international chess tournament overseen by the game's governing body, the International Chess Federation, and watched by the likes of longtime world champion Anatoly Karpov.
The online tournament was the latest example of Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart's nearly decadelong effort to use chess to help inmates prepare for a better life -- and smarter decisions -- on the outside.
"Chess is more than an entertaining pastime. The game teaches its players valuable life lessons," Dart said. "It requires these men to practice critical thinking and the consider the risks and rewards of their decisions, which are valuable skills they can take with them when they return to their communities."
Launched in 2012, the chess program has 14 participants, seven of whom were chosen to compete in Tuesday's tournament based on their skills.
While they fell just short of their ultimate goal -- the jail's team finished second, beating Armenia and Spain but losing to the Russians -- they gained some valuable lessons they hope to take into another tournament this fall.
"There was a lot more we could have done," one of the Cook County competitors said in a post-match Zoom interview. "We always learn from our mistakes."
And that, according to Dart, is the point.
"The game of chess transcends language and cultural barriers, and even the physical barriers within which these men are playing," he said. "These participants may not all speak the same language, but they were able to connect, compete and enjoy their time together. After the difficult year we have all had, that is incredibly important."
Murder verdict upheld
A state appeals court has denied a new trial for the man convicted of killing a former McHenry County sheriff's office employee when a sex-for-money arrangement went bad.
In a unanimous ruling, the Second District Illinois Appellate Court found there was evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to prove Timothy Smith guilty of first-degree murder for the May 2011 slaying of Kurt Milliman.
Authorities said the 48-year-old Milliman was shot to death after answering an online ad offering sex with Smith's wife in exchange for money. Trial testimony indicated the deadly altercation broke out when Smith's wife decided not to go through with the arrangement after Milliman arrived at the couple's Woodstock home.
Smith argued he should have, at worst, been found guilty of second-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter because he killed Milliman to protect his wife.
The appellate court disagreed, noting Smith testified that Milliman did not have a weapon and was not physically harming his wife when Smith opened fire.
"Based on this evidence, a rational fact-finder could reasonably conclude that defendant did not have a subjective belief that (his wife) was in such danger that the use of deadly force was necessary to protect her," Justice Donald C. Hudson wrote.
Smith, 36, was sentenced to 50 years in prison and won't be eligible for parole until May 2061.
Beware of moving scams
The suburban housing market is red hot and plenty of people will be on the move this summer. And if moving weren't enough of a hassle on its own, the Better Business Bureau says there are plenty of scammers out there eager to make it a lot worse.
The BBB says it receives an average of 13,000 complaints and negative reviews about movers each year, many of them describing financial and emotional nightmares.
"The good news is there are plenty of high-quality, reputable movers," said Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the BBB of Chicago and Northern Illinois. "The bad news is for consumers not doing their research, they can end up in the hands of bad movers who can price gouge, tack on additional charges to the move, hold items hostage, or be outright scammers."
Common scams include movers demanding payment for extra fees once they have your belongings, selling you on a great deal to start but upping their charges on moving day, and in worst-case scenarios, loading up a truck with your belongings and disappearing.
Tips from the BBB to avoid getting scammed: check out reviews and ratings online, including at bbb.org; before hiring a mover, look up its license status on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's website; double check that the mover has a real brick-and-mortar address; don't give a deposit or pay cash; look for trucks with company branding and logos; and buy extra insurance.
Sheriff launches new website
In the fall of 2019, Lake County Sheriff John D. Idleburg launched the Criminal Justice Community Council, a partnership of some 30 organizations that work to study the county's juvenile and adult criminal justice system and formulate policy, plans and programs for change.
The council is a strategy of the MacArthur Foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge, which has awarded the county more than $1.4 million in grants to develop programs that keep people who do not pose a threat to public safety out of jail and help reduce recidivism, while also reducing racial and ethnic disparities.
In an effort to make the community council's work more transparent, Idleburg's office this week launched a new website, Facebook page and Twitter account. The website, www.lakecountycjcc.org, includes information about the council, equity in the criminal justice system, contributing members, meeting agendas and more.
"It is so important for the community to have a platform like this to provide us input and guidance," Idleburg said.
The council's Facebook handle is @LakeILcjcc and it's Twitter account is @LakeIL_cjcc.
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