Saturday, May 22, 2010


Dateline: May 12, 2010



Since my release from solitary confinement on April 14th, I’ve been focused on appealing the false disciplinary charges against me, with mixed results. I’ve spent many hours researching legal cases in the law library, and have discovered that the law is on my side, for what it is worth.

“I AM the law!” How many times have I heard that? One of the biggest problems facing a prisoner fighting injustice is the cavalier attitude of the prison “authorities” that the rules and laws don’t apply to them. They are in charge—they have the handcuffs, keys, pepper spray, and the gun towers. The Kangaroo Court is in session. Do you know how hard it is to fight kangaroos, with your hands cuffed behind your back?

One small victory—this incident began in January when mailroom clerk T. Gronik read the anthology, “Wordsmith 2010,” by the Tampa Writers Alliance. She liked it—or disliked it—so much that she kept it, neglecting to send me a “Notice of Impoundment,” as required by Florida law.

You should know that if the postman delivered U.S. mail to someone and you pawed through it, found a book you wanted to read, you couldn’t legally just snatch that book out of the mail and keep it. That is called “theft of mail,” and last time I heard, was a federal crime. Mail to state prisoners is still mail, and if a “prison official” decides to intercept and confiscate a prisoner’s mail, it can be done, but it has to be done right. There are procedures. That’s why the call it, “due process.” In this case, the law says they can take my book, but they must document it and have a valid reason. They have 15 days to send me Form DC5-101, “Notice of Rejection or Impoundment,” which kicks in a time deadline for me to appeal the confiscation to the “Literature Review Committee” in Tallahassee. Mailroom clerk Gronik snatched my book on January 28, 2010, but neglected to file paperwork or tell me about it.

Almost a month later, February 22, while picking up my legal mail (another sensitive issue), I asked the mailroom person if she’d seen the book. She took a deep breath and replied.

“I read the book. I felt the story you wrote was a threat to security [emphasis mine] and sent it to Mr. Hodgson.” Mr. Hodgson is one of the assistant wardens. I asked her about my confiscation notice, where was it? Duh! Sometimes they just don’t want to talk to you.

It’s almost impossible to talk to these people. It must be the “siege mentality.” They have a new thing in prison called “controlled movement,” in which they’ve installed millions of dollars worth of chain link fences, cages, and mazes across the prison yards, they march you through them in groups, like rats looking for the cheese in the psychology labs, while they are two or three layers of fences away from you, in their own little self-protective groups, watching. If you do somehow get closer to them, in their little pod of officials, it won’t do you any good anyway.

An old man once said, “Never approach a pack of wild dogs or prison guards by yourself.” Good advice. You approach a group of guards or officials, the mob mentality kicks in. No matter what you ask them, the answer is no. They must maintain their macho façade in front of their cohorts. If by some chance you encounter one alone, you have a better chance, but after 30 seconds their cell phone will go off, and they scurry away with the thing stuck to their ear.

Our only alternative is to “put it on paper,” to file a grievance, “administrative remedies,” they call it, which is usually about as satisfying as unzipping one’s pants and urinating into a 50 m.p.h. wind. The eternal optimist, I filed, asking for my book back. I’m not going to go into all the back and forth—you can read the court papers later—but the result was the D.R. from assistant warden Gordon for assorted “mail violations.” It took me until March 10th —41 days after confiscation, to get a receipt, and the reason the book was stolen—uh—confiscated.

“Book contains an article written by inmate Norman that won a contest (page 54-57)”

They have to put down the reason and the exact pages where the offending items appear. It just so happens that on pages 54-57 appears my memoir, “To Protect the Guilty,” which was an excerpt from my “Anne Frank Center USA Prison Diary Project” from 2008, approved by DOC officials all the way to Tallahassee and back. KKK prison guards. Hmmmm. And it didn’t win a contest, either. It came in third. What they didn’t mention was that I had two other works published in the same book, a poem, and a short story, but they didn’t mention KKK prison guards, so they let them slide.

Only one problem—the judicial rulings concerning the First Amendment and prisoners’ literary works forbid censorship for the “content of the writings.” In this case, it must have been “the content” that waved the red flag and got their dander up, since they ignored the poem and short story. Naughty, naughty!

While I spent thirty days in solitary from the kangaroo court, my appeal of the book confiscation wended its way to the Literature Review Committee, which is apparently that rare bird in prison officialdom, college-educated people with sense who go by the law.

On April 20th, the committee overruled the confiscation of “Wordsmith 2010,” stating, “Simply because a publication contains an article written by an inmate is not grounds for rejection.” Thank you. Eight days later, exactly three months after Gronik snatched it, I finally got the book. It is a nice one. I recommend it.

Meanwhile, I’m still appealing the false D.R. conviction. If I get turned down again, I have to file in court, Leon County, a “mandamus,” with a $400.00 filing fee. Justice is not cheap. More on that later.

A few comments on our blog readers. Webmaster Dan has been using an interesting web tool called “Sitemeter,” which is like caller ID for the internet. Sitemeter tells us where all the log-ons came from, and other interesting information. For instance, the blog has been accessed by readers in twenty-two countries, all the Canadian provinces, and many states. Most recently, we’ve added readers from Zagreb, Croatia, Ridderkerk Zuid, Holland, Brisbane, Australian, the City of London, Sweden, Singapore, The Russian Federation, Qatar, and many others in Europe, Africa, North America and Asia. Welcome to FreeCharlieNormanNow! Notice that I did NOT ask for donations! We would like to hear your comments.

It turns out, according to Sitemeter, that some of our most avid readers are employed by the Florida Department of Corrections. We’ve had lots of hits from Lake Butler, Florida, a hotbed for certain groups, Tallahassee, Daytona Beach (Tomoka), and others.

Sitemeter tells us our corrections friends do a lot of websurfing during working hours. Hmmm. I wonder if Attorney General McCollum has heard about that? Or what other websites have these public servants—or “surfants” —been visiting on the state dime? Might be grounds for a state audit of employee internet usage during working hours.

Anyone interested in that, to file a complaint, a form is available at or
call the tipline at 1-800-646-0444. Check it out.

Thanks, Charlie


Vox Populi said...

word to the wise: Keep your site meter hidden, not sure if you've already done that but it's the best. ROFL !! If they're there for less than a second, it's a bot. Some of the data is wrong. I love when a lot comes from quantico. Ya gotta LOVE that. Don't rely on it 100 percent and install one that shows where they surf in from and where they go when they leave. That's all I'm sayin ... it proves very interesting. Charlie, having never touched the Inet knows more than the KKK who gets it all the time. Sent ya some reading. Hang in there !

Anonymous said...

Ha-ha-ha-ha. The more I read, the more I find myself laughing over the behavior of our legal system and "those" in charge that were elected by the good, 'ole Floridians. I wonder, do any of "those" in charge at the prison actually know what the word contradiction means? HMMMMMM? You'd think by now they would have someone proof read what they actually put in writing. Just sayin'...

Remember, head up and shoulders back. Be Norman proud.

Judy T. Norman-Rains