Tuesday, September 19, 2017

HURRICANE IRMA SUNFLOWER



Dateline Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017
            Over 30 prisons in the South Florida area were evacuated over the past weekend, Sept. 7 – 11, 2017, in anticipation of Hurricane Irma’s landfall. The prison system is very skilled at moving crowds of people, and Florida Highway Patrol troopers escorted dozens of prison transport buses to safer prisons in North Florida. Here at Columbia Annex C.I., already filled to capacity with about 1600 men, we hunkered down, waiting out the high winds and rain. At least a couple hundred evacuees were housed at the main unit next door.
            Without law library access (every activity cancelled). and not wanting to squander the time opportunity, I  began work on a colored pencil drawing of my second-favorite flower, a giant sunflower.
            When I was a child in East Texas in the 1950’s, my grandmother, Memaw Walker, planted a vegetable garden every year. Along the fence she always planted a windbreak of sunflowers, and the huge yellow blooms fascinated me. In prison, over the past 39-plus years, I’ve had opportunities to plant my own flower and vegetable gardens at various prisons I found myself in. Sunflowers were almost always there, along with my favorite flowers, roses.
            At Tomoka C. I. in Daytona Beach, I grew my biggest sunflower, over twelve feet tall, with an 18-inch giant bloom. The prison administration heard about it, and made several treks to the compound to marvel at the mammoth flower, along with the four-foot long Chinese radish. When officials from Tallahassee visited, the warden would walk them down to show off the plantings, claiming bragging rights.
            Memaw would have been proud.
            On a family note, my wife, Libby, weathered the storm with limited inconvenience in Jacksonville. We spoke on the phone several times until Monday afternoon, Sept. 11th, when the phone lines belatedly failed. Before we were cut off, she did relay the news that our family in Tampa came out okay, although electricity is still off in spots [power was restored by Sept. 13]. My mother, Lucille Norman, lost her 100-year old hickory tree in her front yard, the old tree finally succumbing to Irma’s high winds. My Aunt Alice Walker and the rest of the Norman family were blessedly spared the worst of the storm’s fury. Prayers were answered.

Charlie


Sunday, September 10, 2017

OUR BEST FRIENDS ARE HEROES



Editor’s note: It is a fact that Charlie Norman loves dogs, dogs of all kinds and sizes. He grew up with dogs around him, and has nothing but good memories of dog experiences. In most prisons, the only dogs are the dope/cell phone detection dogs which are allowed no interaction with prisoners, so “dog love” is yet another feature that Charlie has been deprived of for much too long.

Here is a story from that esteemed publication, The Gainesville Sun, that caught Charlie’s eye. It tells of an incident where a small Chihuahua, Coco, a “rescued” dog, prevailed against a giant (compared to him) evil, a true story of a hero:

Gainesville robber flees when Chihuahua attacks

“He’s a very, very good dog,” said Coco’s owner.

The robber might have thought little Coco, a 7-year-old Chihuahua, wouldn’t cause him any trouble when he assaulted the woman taking the dog for a walk.

And he would have been wrong.

Gainesville police say a man about 5 feet, 9 inches tall approached the woman from behind as she walked Coco at Bivens Cove Apartments, at 3301 SW 13th St., around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday. The robber struck her on the head with a glass bottle and demanded money.

Coco, a brown dog with graying fur on his muzzle and around his eyes, bit the robber’s leg, and the man fled into the nearby woods.

Coco was rewarded with treats.

“He had a bone; he had another bone,” said Blake Pfirrmann, 45, Coco’s owner and the woman’s caregiver of 21 years. They live together, along with two other women.

For safety, the woman who was attacked wished to remain anonymous.

The Gainesville Police Department was unable to find the robber, who the woman said smelled of alcohol. Officers urge anyone with information to call GPD’s detective bureau at 393-7670.

At his home on Wednesday, Coco barked at visitors, even as Pfirrmann held him. The dog growled and trembled at first, but soon warmed up to the guests and welcomed petting and Milk Bones, one of his favorite treats.

“He’s very, very protective,” Pfirrmann said. “He bites if he feels endangered.”

After the robbery attempt, the woman walked near the complex’s pool until she was sure the man had gone. Then she returned to her apartment.

“I did not want him following us,” she said.

She wasn’t carrying money when the man tried to rob her; she was checking the mail.
The woman said neither she nor Coco heard the robber come up from behind. The man was wearing jeans, so she doesn’t know how deep the bite went.
She was wearing a baseball hat sideways during the walk, and she thinks the man hit the cap’s brim. The glass didn’t break. The woman suspects it was a beer bottle.

On Wednesday she had a bruise on her temple.

Pfirrmann and the woman have lived at Bivens Cove for about three years and had not experienced a violent encounter there before. After the robbery, the woman wanted to move. On Wednesday, she was uncertain.

“It’s everywhere,” she said. “If you think about it, it’s everywhere you go.”

Pfirrmann said he has begun warning neighbors to walk in more populated places in the complex.

Coco had been abused before Pfirrmann adopted him four years ago, the man said. And four months ago, Coco bit a woman who stepped on his paw.

But after Tuesday, Coco is “a hero,” Pfirrmann said, and he plans to get him a badge.

At the home, Coco rested his head on his housemates’ laps. He is chocolate in color, with big brown eyes and a small white spot on his neck. His hobbies include sunbathing and break-dancing on command, spinning on two legs and barrel rolling. He dances in circles while he poops, which would be too much information if it weren’t so endearing.

“He’s a very, very good dog,” Pfirrmann said.
(photos below)

Upon reading the story myself, I was struck with the similarity of Coco’s actions and Charlie’s actions. Coco is a very small dog, but he did not hesitate to use what attributes he has to protect himself and his loved one, even though the attacker was a giant, much more powerful than him. Charlie is forced to continue to defend himself against a powerful giant of misused political authority that persists in using all manner of illegal means to keep him buried in prison. Regardless of the odds, Charlie keeps biting back to defend himself and survive for his loved ones. He is my hero.
Libby



Sunday, August 20, 2017

WEEKEND VISITATION CANCELLED



08/20/17

Editor’s note: Here is a direct quote from a scholarly dissertation that was studying prison issues: from Prison Experiences, Social Ties, and Inmate Behavior: Examining Visitation and Its Effects on Incarceration and Reentry Outcomes by Joshua C. Cochran, FSU Graduate School, 2013

Inmate visitation merits special attention for several reasons. Inmates have legal rights to visitation; visitation may mitigate the potential harmful effects of social isolation and improve inmate behavior and reentry outcomes; and visitation might provide one way to cost-effectively achieve these benefits

… Indeed, with few exceptions, visitation provides the only opportunity for inmates to have direct contact with family, friends, and community members. In so doing, it affords inmates some ability to preserve, develop, or sustain ties to social networks outside of prison, and to have sources of social capital on which to draw during and after incarceration.

In short, visitation in prison is very, very important to all concerned. For Charlie and me, it is our very life-blood. Opportunities for visitation are already in short supply and often curtailed; therefore, we cherish every visit we get. So it was with considerable heartache that on Thursday, August 17, the prisoners were informed by the warden that visitation for this weekend was cancelled.

From the FDC web site: “The Florida Department of Corrections announced the cancellation of weekend visitation at all Institutions for Saturday, August 19. and Sunday, August 20…In response to credible intelligence indication that small groups of inmates at several institutions may attempt to disrupt FDC operations and impact safety and security, FDC has, in an abundance of caution and in the best interest of staff, inmate and public safety, cancelled all visitation…FDC looks forward to resuming normal visitation as soon as possible…”

“Official directive” has struck again, and Charlie and I lose yet another 10+ hours of  face-to-face direct contact  to preserve, develop, or[and] sustain [our] ties…” It’s for sure the FDC will not add any visitation days in compensation. Visitation is not as meaningful to them.

Charlie and I will make the best of it and strain the phone lines.

Next time you are face-to-face with the ones you love, tell them you love them. It is a moment to cherish.
Libby