The past year, although not without repeated tests of our faith and resolve, ushered in a new hope for freedom and an improved outlook for Charlie and Libby Norman. The roller coaster of captivity took us from heights to depths and back again. The first full year of our marriage has joyously cemented our 15-year relationship far beyond our expectations.
Here is our Christmas, 2015, duet, for your enjoyment:
Charlie: After 2 ½ years of exile in a distant Florida Panhandle prison, traveling miles on the road, and eventually landing in Columbia C.I. late last year, 2015 found me transferred to the next door Columbia C.I. “Annex,” a newer, larger prison, alleged by the guards to be the deadliest prison in Florida, and the third-deadliest in the United States. That reputation has been sustained by drug and gang violence that continues to result in murders, assaults, and lockdowns. On the plus-side, though, it is only an hour’s drive away from Jacksonville.
Libby: In spite of all the negatives, 2015 has been a year of many positive accomplishments. The Free Charlie Norman Now blog, http://charlienorman.blogspot.com/ has reached thousands of readers in 98 countries of the world. The “PEN American Center” in New York bestowed a national writing award for Charlie’s poetry. Through “Bridge To Somewhere, Inc.,” I’ve published Charlie’s first book of poems, The Poem Tree, Selected Verses. Additionally, we’ve produced an updated book, Life In Prison — A Photo exhibit, One Man’s Illustrated Family History of 37 years of Prison Survival, 1978-2015, and a third book, Supporting Documents, a compilation of a cross-section of writings in Charlie’s own words, that will be part of his presentation of “new evidence” to the Florida parole commissioners. Lastly, I’ve designed a series of note cards using Charlie’s artwork and poetry that has been well-received.
Charlie: After Libby’s typing and editing, my writings continue to gain wider notice. Early in 2015, I received an invitation to become a contributing writer to a new online venue, prisonwriters.com. Loen Kelley and company of “Prison Reform 101” are striving to provide a voice for imprisoned writers. Many of my articles are available at www.prisonwriters.com. Harriet Hendel, a prison activist, Innocence Project of Florida board member, and college English professor, is including some of my literary works in a forthcoming class about prison writing. Other offers and requests for interviews have been proposed and may develop at a later time.
Libby: Charlie and I share a love of gardening, and this year I’ve been able to expand my container garden with the “help” of Suzy Q, a lovely wandering cat who was a frequent visitor, then one day decided to stay. She is my Garden Cat, and together we enjoy the outdoors. One of her important jobs is taking inventory of all the chameleon lizards in the garden, an ongoing activity. She’s a ray of sunshine that provides lots of smiles!
Charlie: In anticipation of a 2016 parole hearing, eminent psychologist Harry Krop of Gainesville recently met with me for a follow-up mental health evaluation, fourteen years after his first evaluation. My parole date is currently July 5, 2017, but we are hopeful that date can be moved up to 2016. That is what we are working towards now.
Libby: We expect that Dr. Krop’s follow-up report will confirm what everyone who knows Charlie already knows, that he continues to be a remarkably well-balanced individual, with a positive attitude, realistic future goals, with no drug, alcohol or mental health issues, despite enduring decades of imprisonment under harsh conditions.
Libby and Charlie: Meanwhile, we continue to be each others’ rock of strength and support. Weathering the personal vendettas of two corrupt politicians would have been impossible without the support of family and friends who stand by us. With the outstanding representation by William Sheppard, Esquire, and Team, presenting Charlie’s unparalleled record of accomplishments and service in prison, we look forward to 2016, to applying for a new parole hearing and freedom. We firmly believe that despite over 37 years in prison Charlie is even stronger, more positive and determined than he was when Dr. Krop first met him. Perhaps the parole commissioners will listen to Dr. Krop this time and carefully consider Charlie’s excellent record, God willing.
“Two are better than one…For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion…A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”
Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12
and the very best in the New Year to you!
God bless and keep you.