Friday, May 17, 2013

A DAY IN THE LIFE (of Chicago): Rooting, for once, for the inmates

This might be the one time that the ideologues of our society who like to rant and rage about us being “soft on crime” might have been rooting for the inmates at the Cook County Jail.

Beats finding a 'shiv' in a cell
Then again, maybe they think chess is too soft an activity – and they’ll still rage!

I WAS AMUSED by the Chicago Sun-Times report about how inmates at the county jail this week played inmates held in prisons across Russia. It wasn’t face-to-face. Our inmates were in the jail’s law library, while the Russian inmates were in their own prison facilities. The games were played on-line.

Not the typical chess championship setting
And it seems that the criminal element of Russian society is just as masterful at chess as their international champions – as they beat the bulk of the Cook County inmates. One inmate went so far as to tell the Sun-Times that the games felt, “like an ambush.”

Personally, I find the idea of inmates spending all their spare time (which is what they have while being incarcerated) playing a board game to be encouraging. There are worse things they could be doing.

Although I couldn’t help but notice some people using the anonymity of the Internet to complain that these inmates should have been doing something that resembles hard labor.

THEY PROBABLY WOULD only be pleased to see inmates wearing black-and-white striped uniforms and swinging big hammers. Personally, I’d be concerned that they’d use those hammers as weapons against their guards.

As Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart told the Sun-Times, chess is harmless because they can’t really, “beat someone with a rook.”

And as for those who wonder about the whuppin’ the Cook County inmates received this week, there’s one encouraging factor. They have nothing but time to continue to practice and get better – should there ever be anything resembling a rematch.

What else was notable amongst the activity taking place Thursday on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan?

SOME SENSE PREVAILS?: It has been a month since the Cook County courts imposed their new ban on people being able to bring their cellular telephones into the courthouses, and a part of me is relieved to see that some semblance of sense prevails in terms of that policy’s enforcement.

Deputies showing some sense in phone enforcement
My duties as a reporter-type person took me Thursday to the courthouse in suburban Markham, where deputies were allowing people to keep their phones on their persons inside the building.

They were requiring anyone wishing to make a call to go outside to do so. But the idea of people with business before the court having to surrender the phones wasn’t quite so rigid as the “letter of the law” implies.

Although within the courtrooms, judges were saying that anybody whose phones rang during session would have them confiscated. And I did see one individual try to use his phone during court. Deputies confiscated it from him, but returned it when he left for the day.

THE YOUTH VOTE?: It’s now in the hands of Gov. Pat Quinn as to whether 17-year-olds will be able to cast ballots in elections in Illinois.

Not the favorite setting for youth
The state Senate this week gave the final legislative approval required for a bill that allows 17-year-olds to vote in primaries – IF they can document that they will be 18 by the time the general election comes around.

Yes, I’m aware there are a few youthful types already on their way toward becoming government geeks who will be all worked up about the chance to cast their first ballot a few months earlier than the law currently allows.

But those officials who say they support this as a way of bolstering the percentage of those who vote? It sounds like wishful thinking to my mindset, since the rule of thumb for political professionals trying to turn out the vote is that it is the old folks, so to speak, who are the most reliable when it comes to showing up at the polling place.


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