Tuesday, June 8, 2010



This is another installment from Charlie's Confinement Diary written from "solitary" where he was sent as a result of a retaliatory disciplinary report by officials of D.O.C.
Tourists picture their time in Florida as palm trees swaying in the balmy ocean breezes, rubbing on Coppertone at Daytona Beach, getting a tan, enjoying the heat. I have bad news. That’s not how it is in solitary confinement. The low temperatures this week have been in the 40’s outside and little difference in “the box,” except the wind isn’t blowing.

Until I run out of ink and paper, while I’m back here in lockdown doing my “30 & 30,” thirty days disciplinary confinement and thirty days loss of gaintime for the heinous act noted on Form DC5-101 as, “Book contains an article written by Inmate Norman that won a contest (page 54-57).” The book is “Wordsmith 2010,” published by the Tampa Writers Alliance, and the “article” is actually a 2400 word excerpted memoir from my “prison diary,” part of the 2008 Anne Frank Center Prison Diary Project in New York, and the offending memoir is “To Protect the Guilty,” an account that I thought was fairly innocuous, tongue-in-cheek, even humorous in a dark, realistic way. I guess the offended prison administrators (all white, from North Florida, with heavily Deep South accents, by the way), didn’t see the literary value.

Just one more false statement to note: “To Protect the Guilty” did not win the contest—it came in third, but the prison system has never been known for its accuracy.
It was a cold evening in my cell as Day One turned to night. Don’t try this at home. After hours of asking, I finally got two threadbare sheets and an extremely thin cotton blanket (more like a heavier sheet). A one-inch hard plastic mattress on a cold steel bunk (no pillow) made for a painful, restless semi-sleep. Having progressive arthritis doesn’t help.

After we ate our meager supper trays around four PM (part of the deprivation is the loss of time sense—24 hour lights, no clocks or watches, no radio, no news) the poor soul in the next cell said, “It’s a long time to two slices of bread.” I found out what he meant about thirteen hours later when they brought a breakfast tray with two pieces of toast (where’s the French?) and a small spoon of oatmeal. Stomach growls started soon after.

It may be around ten AM now, on Day Two—St. Patrick’s Day, if I recall correctly. No parades, no floats. A minute ago a woman from classification was escorted down the hall by a guard, to have someone sign papers, said, “Brrr! It’s freezing back here!” No kidding.

After doing some jumping jacks to try to get warm, the first thing I did was cobble together a calendar for March and April. I knew yesterday was March 16th, but if you’re not careful, back here you can lose all sense of time and date. I used one of my precious few sheets of paper, a worthwhile investment. I calculated that if they make me do the full thirty days, I’ll get out on April 14th. Since this is a completely false charge, a reprisal, and glaring errors ensued (which happens when people compound their lies), which I documented in my appeal to the warden, who has the last say, if all were right in the world and they actually followed “Due Process,” he’d quickly respond to my grievance, toss out the predetermined verdict, and let me go. But, since the investigating officer told me, “the warden wants your ass in jail,” what sort of hope do I have for a fair hearing? Not much.

I found out it’s a little after eleven AM—they brought the pitiful lunch trays—textured vegetable protein (a.k.a. Kibbles & Bits), beans, and cold sliced potatoes. No salt, no seasoning. A two-inch square piece of cake. You have to resist the impulse to eat it fast—chew it slowly, small bites, make it last longer, or you’ll be hungry quicker. The captain told me yesterday that he’d let me have one phone call, but that hasn’t happened yet. At least I did get a five-minute shower last night—showers on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, so something went right.

After I made the calendar this morning, I read my Bible. That’s the only book they allow you to keep. Bibles and prisons have long history together. The Quakers supposedly built the first prison in our country. In line with their beliefs, “penitent” became “penitentiary,” and they’d lock a man alone in a cold stone cell with a Bible and a water cup. Bread and water. Read the Bible and reflect. Learn the error of your ways.

I have a very nice “NIV” Bible that my Aunt Alice gave me in 1986. At Zephyrhills C.I., our visitors could go to the prison chapel every Sunday with us for an hour before visiting. My mother, Alice, and my niece, Tammy, came most Sundays. When the visiting preachers would say, “Turn in your Bibles to _________,” we’d all try to read the verse in the Bible, but the print was so small, it didn’t work. When Alice ordered a large-print Bible for me, it solved the problem. Four of us could read the verse with ease. Little did I know that twenty years later I needed the large print text myself!

One thing I do is read a chapter of Psalms and Proverbs each day, depending on the date. Today I read Psalms 17 and Proverbs 17. If I have time (now) I’ll read five chapters of Psalms and some New Testament. It’s uncanny how there will be a verse on that date that applies to my situation, like in Psalms 17—“Give ear to my prayer—it does not rise from deceitful lips. May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right.” And two verses from Proverbs 17: —“A wicked man listens to evil lips; a liar pays attention to a malicious tongue,” and “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent—the Lord detests them both.”

I realized a long time ago that this is a spiritual battle I am involved in, and the forces of evil—in the form of state attorney Mark Ober (the Great Satan) and his minions have been firing at me forever, it seems, and there’s no doubt in my mind that all the prayers made on my behalf by so many true believers have kept me alive and safe. So be it.

It’s getting a little noisy back here now. The “psych meds” must be wearing off my fellow confines. I will continue this record when I can, or until they take my half-pen. Meanwhile, prayers or any other help you can offer will be appreciated. Thanks.


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