Chess Master from NYC organizes tournaments for inmates

A man from the Bronx is visiting prisons across the country to help make a difference -- one move at a time.

Video Transcript

- Tonight a different kind of #BeKind story to tell you about, a man from the Bronx who at a very young age became a groundbreaking chess champion. So believes in the positive things that can come from playing chess. So much so he's taking his campaign on the road to prisons. Spreading the word about chess, yes, but he's doing something that's far grander. He's changing lives.

[DOOR CREAKING]

On the fourth floor of the St. Louis County Justice Center, there's a battle going on-- a battle between inmates. And even in this secure environment, they have pieces-- chess pieces.

- These, guys they good. This is what they do.

- 106 players signing up for the inmate chess tournament. Yeah, there's such a thing.

- There's some good players in there.

- And watching it all, Justus Williams. That's Bronx native Jusuts Williams, who became the youngest African-American chess master in history at the age of just 12. He's overseeing this tournament, a tournament he helped make happen.

JUSTUS WILLIAMS: We're trying to bring more faces into chess, so we gotta get into the underrepresented communities in the jails. I mean, nobody-- I haven't really heard of any chess-related activities within a jail, really. And as soon as I did, I was like, all right. We got to do this here.

- Two floors up, three more matches. Every meticulous move mindfully motivated.

JUSTUS WILLIAMS: It's beautiful. Like, there's a lot of great players in here. Some people just-- they just move so confidently like they've been playing all their lives.

[KNOCKING]

- But all of this is much more than just a chess tournament.

JUSTUS WILLIAMS: What we really, like, trying to do is get these guys to journal how chess is helping them while in here.

- Mario Reed is a correction officer who sees the benefits all this brings.

MARIO REED: It keeps them calm. It give them something to look forward to. You know, it's motivation. You know, keep their mind, like, just occupied on, you know, something positive. That's what it does for 'em.

JUSTUS WILLIAMS: I think that's why this program is really important.

- The tournament champion will play against Justus.

MARIO REED: So the winner of all this, y'all gonna have to play this man right here.

- But regardless of the outcome--

JUSTUS WILLIAMS: Just being able to talk chess, talk life-- just talk anything-- talk ideas with them is pretty cool.

- Just for a second, let's consider some numbers. There are more prisoners in the United States, far more, than any other country on the planet-- roughly 2.3 million. The cost? At least $80 billion a year.

And consider this. In New York state, the cost to house and feed a prison for a year close to four years of tuition, room, and board at a SUNY college campus. Stopping recidivism through activities like this? Well, Justus Williams from the Bronx is really on to something.

By the way, if you have a #BeKind story, we want to hear from you. Send your ideas to us at abc7ny.com/bekind. I will personally get your email.

- Yeah. Way to go, Justus, on that one.