Wednesday, June 3, 2020


Tuesday, June 2, 2020. 7:21 p.m., Tomoka C. I., Daytona Beach, FL

I'm tired. It has been a long, hot, exhausting, and expensive day. My name appeared on the ''call-out sheet'' last night for a D. R. hearing (disciplinary report) this morning at 7:00 a.m. in E-dorm (confinement), from the bogus D. R. they dropped on me last Wednesday.

I packed up all my property last night — a considerable chore. That's the normal procedure — most people go to solitary confinement from their D. R. hearings — and that saves the dorm officer from having to pack everything to be stored while the prisoner is in lockup, or from being stolen by his neighbors.

This morning I told the dorm sergeant I had a hearing in E-dorm at seven, and asked, could I leave my property in the dorm, rather than hauling it to the opposite end of the prison compound, a considerable distance.

''Do you expect to go to jail?'' she asked, raising her eyebrows.

''Not for a fabricated face mask violation. They usually hand out 30 days probation, but I'm trying for a dismissal,'' I said.

"Yes, leave it. Good luck.''

I trekked all the way to E-dorm, only to find that my hearing would be held in K-dorm. Another pandemic procedural change. They bring the hearing to you.

Three hours later, I finally had a stroke of luck. Many years ago, during my first stay at Tomoka, I was courteous and polite to a rookie officer who was dropped into the visiting park early in his career. My wife, Libby, was also polite and courteous to him, as she always is. We had numerous interesting conversations, mostly my telling him ''war stories,'' past prison incidents that served as caution points for what new officers should not do. Many years later, he'd risen through the ranks, and now was the security representative for my hearing.

''Charles Norman, I just can't get away from you,'' he said, smiling.

When you're a long-term prisoner, you see officers work many years, retire, and be replaced by their children. Oftentimes officers relate better to prisoners than their coworkers. He asked about my family. He remembered. I had already served almost 30 years in prison when he was a new recruit, and years later, it astounds many of these officers that I am still in prison. It astounds me, too.

The Jpay photos I'd requested clearly showed my facemask was on my face, not ''removed,'' as the D. R. alleged. He read my statement, and agreed that the D. R. never should have been written, but they were getting pressure from ''up top,'' the administration, to crack down on face mask violations.

So I was found guilty, and given 15 days probation, the lowest sentence they can issue. The unspoken policy in prison is find everyone guilty — let them overturn it on appeal, which I will do next. If the taxpayers knew how many millions of dollars the State spends on petty D. R.'s every year, there'd be a revolt.

Just as I unpacked my belongings, the K-dorm officer announced that everyone was moving out, pack up. Again.

I call it human checkers--moving people around from place to place, often with no rhyme or reason. My destination was J-2 dorm, a fairly decent place next to the chowhall and across from classification/medical. The only problem was that there were a number of other prisoners going to the same place, with only one laundry cart. Mattresses, bedrolls, large bags of personal property.

I was slow. My bunk was in the far corner of the dorm, and by the time I piled on my bags, the cart was precariously stacked close to seven feet high. Getting it out the door confirmed that several large bags had to come off, or they'd keep falling. Four guards were standing there smirking and offering unsolicited advice. I told them we had to leave behind several bags — was that all right? Sure. We'd get them on a second trip. Four of us left bags. When we came back, my bag was gone, as well as the officers.

That hurt. I lost personal clothing, some art materials, a few books, and the canteen food items I'd bought this week. My bad, as they say. I wasn't thinking. No recourse. I asked several officers, who shrugged. Tough luck.

At least my new accommodations are okay — a single bunk with a ceiling fan overhead. That's crucial during the sweltering Florida summer.

I've known many of these men for years. More than one said that their family members read these updates to them on the phone, and they enjoyed them. At supper, a younger prisoner Libby and I became acquainted with at visits sat next to me, told me his granny read the updates, and he wondered how ''Ant Man'' was doing. ''Fine,'' I said. ''We killed a bunch of ants this morning, before we got moved.''

The ''police'' — what many call the officers — are also readers — always have been. Over the years I've gotten compliments on certain essays that struck the officers hard enough that they wanted to ask me about them.

It is later now, almost time for ''master count.'' With all the moves today, it's a good bet that count time will be a challenge.

One more thing...overheard in the TV room, while I was trying to watch the news of New York City burning:

1st Guy: "I read something interesting in this magazine.''

2nd Guy: ''Yeah?''

1st Guy: "Did you know there are four different species of giraffes?''

2nd Guy: ''Yeah?''

1st Guy: ''Yeah. You can tell by the spots.''

2nd Guy: "Yeah? Uh, what's a giraffe?''

More later. All the best to you and yours, and be safe.


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