Tuesday, June 29, 2010




For the past three months I've been so busy fighting the forces of evil, filing legal appeals on the First Amendment attacks by Ku Klux Klan sympathizers, meeting impending deadlines that could otherwise cost me more prison time, that I haven't devoted the time I usually did on updating this blog. For that neglect I apologize and ask your forbearance. Freedom first!

A few weeks ago, sitting in the prison chapel waiting for Father Bob Anderson to come in for the Episcopal Communion Service, I had the unique experience of hearing a previously-unknown prison poet perform a unique work for the Gavel Club meeting. You had to be there to appreciate  the performance. Afterwards, I asked  my friend, Andre, if I could get a copy of his poem. With his permission, unveiled to the world for all to see, is the following work. I hope you enjoy it. Andre assures me he has more.



By André L. Payne, Sr.

I crashlanded into the Abyss—of a Piss-poor
Penitentiary system that has given me
Its gluteus maximus to Kiss.

Dis-functionalism at its Apex
Check the deck of cards they dealing
Peeling the Skin—akin to Swiss Mocha
they gave us the Joker—
Jack-in-da’-Box Wardens with the
Academic Attitude of a Sand-Crane-on Crack—

My Back is against the Wall painted the color of puke,
Scoop up your seeds you just spilled in the Shower
The hour is Now—How—can we reproduce,
When you reduce your Spectrum into the
Rectum of the Devil?

Level the score—
He wins the War
The Door is broken-down
So long as you clowns
Walk the Pound
With your pants hanging down!

Sharpen your perception—
The election has left us with a people,
Whose only direction is a career in corrections.
This is their Made Best—
When a TABE Test
And the ability to say, “Cuff up!”—
is the only criteria for a [C.O. Badge]—
We’ve been had.

Sadly spoken, token hand-picked pricks with the
I.Q. of a pair of handcuff Keys
I dare you to ask an officer
What’s the eight parts of speech
(He’ll probably lock-you-up!)

It’s a crying Shame;
A White Shirt can’t even spell your NAME,
Brain dead derelicts that don’t even pay Rent!
They’re living for free
They wear their brass for free,
We mow their grass for free,
You Kiss-his-asinine-behind-to remind him;
His spine is gone
His Mind is blown!

They don’t give a flying flapjack about
a Chapter 33—open your eyes and see!
How can We Win—When they all Kin?

Look around—Brothers and Sisters on the same pound!
Fathers and daughters on the same pound—
Cousins, Uncles, and Aunties walking the same ground,
on the same pound.

The End

Saturday, June 12, 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.



As Day Three of my odyssey through the First Amendment and solitary confinement progresses, I should tell you first of the events that closed out Day Two.

I had the same conversation virtually verbatim, several times since I’ve been locked in “the Hole,” mostly with the “C.O.’s,” the correctional officers, and their immediate supervisors, the sergeants. Each would be passing by my cell, would glance in to make sure I was alive, not hanging from a sheet or sprawled in a pool of blood, would start to go by, then stop, step back, look again, recognition dawns, confusion wrinkles the brow, and after a few seconds would speak:

“What are you doing back here?” (astonishment)

“A story I wrote was published in a book, so the assistant warden wrote me up.”

“What was it about?”

“My experiences some years back with retaliation by KKK prison guards.”

“Why did they lock you up?”

“I suppose she took personal offense at my depiction of the KKK. I don’t know. I’ve never spoken to her.”

“Haven’t these people ever heard of the First Amendment?”

“Funny you should mention that. I’ve been told by a KKK prison guard that ‘the Constitution ain’t in effect in prison.’ ”

“That’s bullshit. You’re the last person I’d expect to see back here.”

“Me, too. You know how straight a line I walk.”

“Good luck. Keep fighting.”

“I will. Thanks.”

What has amazed me is the virtually universal understanding of the First Amendment trampling the lowest level guards possess, while the highest level “administrators,” college-educated and “trained” at endless taxpayer-funded “conferences on corrections,” have such a cavalier disregard for years and years of Constitutional law, state law, and prison rules that regulate both “them” and “us.” When you gain ultimate control and total power over the defenseless, oftentimes that absolute power corrupts what at other times are described as “good people.” I think the term is “totalitarianism.”

Where is the ACLU, the SCLC, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the defenders of the oppressed and powerless, when I really need them? Come on, folks! Let’s stop this lynching. The rope is getting tighter. How are they going to explain this to D.O.C. Secretary Walt McNeil?

About eight thirty PM on Day Two, when solitary confinement was just settling down for the evening, when the psych meds were beginning to hit the loud mouths who’d been screaming inanities all day lapsed into their drug-induced comas (they like prisoners in comas; it becomes more a “storage” issue than “care, custody, and control,” their bywords), I lay on my hard bunk reading a dog-eared twenty-year old paperback novel a fellow prisoner had slid down the hall to me.

At the end of the hall, where they can approach the wing from the back way, came a ruckus. Loud talking, laughing, joking—you ever see a pack of teenage boys walking through a mall, kidding around, elbowing each other, playing “grab ass?” That’s what it sounded like. It couldn’t be guards: cameras record everything in the hallways, and the guards are “under the gun” of the higher-ups in charge—any wrong moves on camera and they’re gone—they know they are under surveillance, so they keep themselves low-key.

I didn’t bother getting up. I didn’t care. But a moment later the obviously phony camaraderie reached my cell, and I saw the warden, the male assistant warden (both white), and the black colonel peering through the little grill of my cell door. They are required to make rounds every so often, and I suppose they stopped by after having a few beers, before returning to their trailer park across the street.

They did the same double-take—looked in, moved, stopped, looked in again, stared.

“Who’s that?” (There is a photo page print out by the door, the same one on the D.O.C. web site, with identifying information).




“That’s Norman?” (They crowd around the grill and stare again. I stare back, not moving).

They move on, quiet now, no “Kee-Kee-Keeing,” as prisoners call the immature posturing and grab ass. Then the black colonel came back, stopped, looked in and stared, by himself. If I’d expected him to say something like, “Hey, I’m not with this KKK shit, I’m not defending white racists, but this is over my head, and I can’t say anything, sorry,” I’d have been wrong. I didn’t. He didn’t.

Instead, he asked, “What’s the name of that book?”

I didn’t expect him to want a book review, so I just held up the title where he could see it. Most prisoners in solitary, when “officials” pass by, “get on the door” and beg for an audience, seeking conversation, mercy, whatever. I had nothing to say to them. “You have the right to remain silent” are optimum words, since anything you say will be used to justify pepper spraying and “use of force.” I let my pen do the talking, that is, until it runs out of ink, which could be any time. Then I really will be silenced. Perhaps that’s their plan.

Thirty minutes later the guard came by and told me to pack up my meager laundry bag of limited possessions, I was moving to “E” Dorm, the larger confinement area far on the south end of the compound. Why? Orders. Okay, I get it. The KKK’s roots run deep in prison, like those stunted trees in parched lands.

You may recall they took my shoes, and gave me flip flops. They cuff your hands behind your back, put on short leg irons, so you take shuffling baby steps, and have to carry your bag behind your back. The weight pulls down on your shoulders, and if you are a big man with big shoulders, it’s a form of torture. I refused. I told them I’ve had back injuries, and I couldn’t do that. Sometimes, if you have a choice, you must not submit to torture. I knew if I even tried to carry that bag—my Bible and two large envelopes of legal papers made it heavy—I’d be suffering later. Just the handcuffs behind the back cut into and bruise your wrists and arms.

One of the “decent” guards said fine, use a “waist chain,” hands at the front, which was better, but still an ordeal. Try wearing flip flops with your ankles chained together and walk down a very long sidewalk. It’s not easy. Neither is climbing stairs.

Before I leave “Y Dorm” behind, I want to give you a brief rundown of how that term evolved.

Up until 1999 or so, all the main solitary confinements, “disciplinary,” at most Florida prisons were designated as “X Wing,” as in, “X-ed out,” crossed off, no longer in “X-istence.” Things happened on “X-Wing.” Run your mouth to the guards, they yell, “Pop the door,” and a crowd piles in the cell and beats you down, which is different from “beating someone up.”

Then “Valdez” came along, a notorious prisoner who was involved in a guard’s death. They housed him on “X-Wing” at “FSP,” Florida State Prison, and everyone knew it was just a matter of time. He was a dead man.

One day they came in there and kicked and beat Valdez to death. Most bones in his body were broken. Ribs punctured his heart and lungs. The guards said either it was an accident, he’d fallen off his bunk and died, or he did it on purpose, did a swan dive to take himself out. What about those deep boot impressions on his chest and back? Oh, they were trying to revive him! So emerged the joking (to them) term, “FSP CPR” —he’s not breathing? —step on his chest with your boot and give him FSP-CPR. Perhaps a couple of kicks will jumpstart his heart. Nope, he didn’t make it.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates prisoner deaths, and they called it murder. A crew of guards were charged, went on trial, and were acquitted. What did you expect? Bradford County is composed mostly of prison guards, retired prison guards, and their relatives. North Florida justice.

There were national TV shows about “X-Wing,” the state of Florida, and the prison system took some P.R. hits, so the biggest change came in abolishing all “X-Wings” and making them “Y’s.” Now it is “Y-Dorm,” sounds like a place curious college students might live, but it is the same old X-Wing, whitewashed with new labels. Spray paint silver onto a rotten mullet, it still stinks. Even so, I was glad to get out of “Y Dorm,” even at nine o’clock at night, mysteriously hobbling in the dark, trying not to fall on my face.

Later I’ll tell you more about Day Three and “E” Dorm, my new cell, with a 21-year old “bug” on the top bunk, who’s served less than a year in prison and gets out Saturday, returning to Tampa. I’d been in prison eleven years already when he was born.

The sergeant put me in his cell to watch out for him—“Talk some sense to the kid, please.” The kid—that’s what he is—small, slightly built white boy, looks about sixteen, scared to death they were going to put a “booty bandit” in the cell. He’s relieved. He’s safe for a few days.

Now I must deal with a host of new challenges, including being stuck in a cell dirty as a pig sty. First thing we’re doing is cleaning this place up. I have to babysit. See you later.


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.