Sunday, August 20, 2017



Editor’s note: Here is a direct quote from a scholarly dissertation that was studying prison issues: from Prison Experiences, Social Ties, and Inmate Behavior: Examining Visitation and Its Effects on Incarceration and Reentry Outcomes by Joshua C. Cochran, FSU Graduate School, 2013

Inmate visitation merits special attention for several reasons. Inmates have legal rights to visitation; visitation may mitigate the potential harmful effects of social isolation and improve inmate behavior and reentry outcomes; and visitation might provide one way to cost-effectively achieve these benefits

… Indeed, with few exceptions, visitation provides the only opportunity for inmates to have direct contact with family, friends, and community members. In so doing, it affords inmates some ability to preserve, develop, or sustain ties to social networks outside of prison, and to have sources of social capital on which to draw during and after incarceration.

In short, visitation in prison is very, very important to all concerned. For Charlie and me, it is our very life-blood. Opportunities for visitation are already in short supply and often curtailed; therefore, we cherish every visit we get. So it was with considerable heartache that on Thursday, August 17, the prisoners were informed by the warden that visitation for this weekend was cancelled.

From the FDC web site: “The Florida Department of Corrections announced the cancellation of weekend visitation at all Institutions for Saturday, August 19. and Sunday, August 20…In response to credible intelligence indication that small groups of inmates at several institutions may attempt to disrupt FDC operations and impact safety and security, FDC has, in an abundance of caution and in the best interest of staff, inmate and public safety, cancelled all visitation…FDC looks forward to resuming normal visitation as soon as possible…”

“Official directive” has struck again, and Charlie and I lose yet another 10+ hours of  face-to-face direct contact  to preserve, develop, or[and] sustain [our] ties…” It’s for sure the FDC will not add any visitation days in compensation. Visitation is not as meaningful to them.

Charlie and I will make the best of it and strain the phone lines.

Next time you are face-to-face with the ones you love, tell them you love them. It is a moment to cherish.



Since the two parole hearings, May 25, 2017, and July 19, 2017, much has happened. The parole investigator, Z.C. Rowan, a parole official for over 40 years, met with me in April, reviewed my case, and recommended a July 4, 2017, parole release date; however, with the political tampering and conflicts of interest of corrupt politicians who have been fixated on a personal vendetta against me for years, multiple false statements by assistant state attorney Kimberly Hindman, negatively influenced the three parole commissioners.

Ignoring volumes of mitigating factors and powerful testimonials from responsible citizens who have known me for decades, the commissioners refused to release me on a well-deserved parole. There is much to share about these two hearings, which I will do in later filings to you. We have transcripts of both hearings if you’d like to read everything.

Attorney Bill Sheppard presented a powerful summation of the record in support of my parole, but as he said, the decision was predetermined. Jack Murphy, my friend for almost 40 years, delivered an impassioned plea for my release, but his dynamic words fell on deaf ears.

Much has happened in the past couple of weeks, on several fronts, which I will summarize.

In November, 2016, the doctor discovered blood in a urine sample for my physical. I made several “day trips” to the Lake Butler RMC prison hospital for more tests. A new private medical provider, Centurion, goes all out on testing and follow-up. Dr. Mark Abramson, a urologist from Jacksonville Memorial Hospital, arranged for a  CT scan, a cystoscopy, and X-rays, which turned up two kidney stones. On Friday, August 11, 2017, I was outfitted in handcuffs, a waist chain, and leg irons, then transported in a prison van to Jacksonville Memorial Hospital for an ultrasound surgery. They call it surgery because they gave me general anesthesia. One whiff from the mask, and I was gone. When I woke up, it was over.

I was impressed by the kindness and professionalism of the doctors, nurses and technicians at Jacksonville Memorial Hospital. After the ultrasound, three nurses kept me company for an hour, monitoring my vitals, until I recovered. Another nurse, Mary, brought me a much-appreciated hot meal of beef tips and gravy over rice and green beans, something unavailable in prison “chow.”

The trip along Interstate 10 from the Columbia Annex C.I. near Lake City, to Jacksonville and back, was harrowing for someone who has taken only a few fast rides in heavy traffic in the past 39 years. It gave me a new appreciation for the effort and sacrifices my dear wife, Libby, makes every weekend when she drives from Jacksonville to visit me.

I did a lot of rubbernecking when we got off I-95 onto University Boulevard, still amazed at the traffic congestion, the dozens of fast food places, car lots, stores, and other businesses. We got to the hospital late, all the “corrections” parking spaces were filled, and we had to park a long distance from the wing we were going to. Don’t try this at home — walking a couple blocks wearing leg irons — large handcuffs with a longer chain — rubbing raw your ankles and Achilles tendons. I realized I was only a mile or two from Libby’s downtown office, which made me wistful, sad that I should have been out of prison already, working at the “Prisoners of Christ” program, and seeing her every day, rather than being chained up like a condemned man.

Dr. Abramson told me I might experience pain if and when the (hopefully) broken up kidney stones tried to pass. He wasn’t kidding. I was all right Friday and Saturday, but Sunday night, for hours, I experienced excruciating pain from my right kidney. After finally dozing off, I woke up Monday morning feeling much better.

The highlight of my week was Saturday, August 12, 2017, when my dear friends, the Smigiel family, came to visit from South Florida. Gary has been a trusted friend and supporter for over 34 years. Marcela has done a wonderful job of raising four children and bringing them to visit me since the early 1990’s. Adrianna and Daniella, their youngest daughters, have grown up visiting me in prison. It is amazing how quickly they’ve grown from darling little girls to beautiful, special young women. I pray that before too much longer we will no longer have to visit together inside these prison fences.

Out of the clear blue, my first cousin, Sue Jones, contacted us by e-mail a couple of weeks ago. Her mother, mu Aunt Frankie Lee Hatchell, was my father’s older sister. After my father’s death in 1985, Aunt Frankie  visited me in prison at Zephyrhills C.I. She and her younger sister, my Aunt Eloise, burst into tears when they saw me enter the visiting area. I had not seen them since my childhood, but they rushed to me and hugged me.

“You’re the spitting image of our father as a young man,” Aunt Frankie said, embracing me.

I’d spent little time with my Norman relatives growing up, but after we reconnected, Frankie, Eloise and I became much closer. They are all gone now, and to hear from my cousin, Sue, touched me.

One more incident of note that happened  Saturday afternoon at the Orange Park Mall, south of Jacksonville: sixteen years ago when I was at the Columbia C.I. Main Unit, Libby registered our first e-mail address — That was followed by our web site,, and the blog  several years later. Thousands of people in over 100 countries have visited those sites.

Saturday afternoon, Libby made a purchase at one of the stores at the mall and got into a conversation with the sales clerk. She suggested that Libby register her e-mail address to receive sales notices and coupons, so Libby filled out the form with the freecharlie e-mail. The clerk what the “freecharlie” meant, was it a certain name. Libby told her it did mean something, but it was too much to explain. She asked if it referred to Charles Norman. Flabbergasted, Libby said it did.

The clerk said, “I’ve been following Charles on the Internet, and so have many of my friends. He has been in prison too long, and should be released.”

After they talked some more, Libby left the store, elated, amazed at what had just happened a totally random contact of familiarity and support.  That’s the power of the Internet.

We have a hard battle before us, and need all the help and support we can get. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please share them.

Meanwhile, we will continue to pray, have faith, and persevere. Thanks for being on our side.

Adrianna, Daniella, Charlie, Marcela, and Gary

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Rylie “Poison Ivy” Norman Has A Birthday

Dateline July 15, 2017

My nephew, Tim, my brother, Dan’s, son, sent me a photo of his and Kristin’s little girl, Rylie, dressed as “Poison Ivy” at Hallowe’en, 2016. I couldn’t resist the impulse, so as a much-needed break from legal research and praying for good results at my final parole hearing in Tallahassee on July 19, I spent a couple of days with my colored pencils. This is the result.

I’m writing this on Saturday night, July 15,  before the Wednesday hearing, so by the time my handwritten message makes it through the prison mailroom, through the postal service, and to my wife, Libby’s, computer and onto the Internet, the hearing will be history.

Talking on the telephone an hour ago with my mother in Tampa, she told me that my brother, Dan, had gone to baby Rylie’s first birthday party this afternoon. My mother does a lot of praying for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and I asked her to pray for freedom for me next Wednesday.

She said, “Son, I can’t go to your hearing, and I don’t have any money to help you with, but I pray day and night for the Lord to let you and Libby be together.”

We talked about relatives in Texas who have been out of touch, and Mama mentioned her first cousin, Letha (Smith) Miles, daughter of Aunt Stella, older sister of my grandfather, Floyd Walker, Sr., and Letha’s younger sister, Iva.

I miss Letha so much. I need to call her. She was my cousin and also best friend when we were teenagers. I spent every summer with them. One summer Letha and I got jobs at the “Candy Corner” store, but we got fired.”

My mother burst out laughing at the remembrance, as if it were yesterday. I’d never heard that story  ̶  my mother has a thousand I’ve never heard, and I’m always asking her about those times. Now I asked her why she and Letha got fired.

We went down to wave at the soldiers on the troop trains. We stayed too long and didn’t get back in time, so we got fired.”

My mother was born August 23, 1929. During WWII, she was between thirteen and sixteen, or so. I could visualize two young girls joining others waving goodbye to the troops, Texas boys heading off to battle in distant lands, and thought of the many who didn’t come home.

Baby Rylie Norman celebrated her first birthday. Her great-grandmother will celebrate her 88th in five weeks.

I thank God that my mother remains healthy and strong, and able to fill in blank spaces in our family history. I pray that Rylie will be telling stories to her children and grandchildren in the decades to come.