Sunday, December 27, 2020

Finding Hidden Treasures in My Bible



 I’ve told the story before, how from 1983 — 1987, my family came to Chapel services at Zephyrhills C.I. every Sunday — usually my mother, Lucille Norman, my niece, Tammy Norman, and Aunt Alice Walker, and sometimes my brothers, Dan and Tom, and less often, my father, Eugene, until his passing in 1985. We would almost fill up a pew in the tiny chapel. My family home was 12 miles down Highway 301 in Thonotosassa, so it was a quick trip to visit. There were a few families — regulars — who visited their loved one, sang with the “Howling Dog Choir,” (I called it) and enjoyed special religious services by outside church groups I still recall. Most of the other inmates didn’t get visitors, and my family was a sort of surrogate family for many of the men. My mother, aunt, and niece were always so friendly and gracious to everyone, that the pews in front and behind us were always crowded with men wanting to sit near us. Two of my oldest prison friends, Mike Riding and Jack Murphy, sat on our pew with us.

In September, 1983, after a disappointing Saturday service cancellation, Murf and I brainstormed a new prison religious event, a three-day “Sonshine Adventure,” the Son signifying Jesus Christ, the Shine for His light shining on us all, and the Adventure of walking in the Christian path. Miraculously, our idea was approved and succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, of volunteers and churches coming onto the compound for three days and nights, leading to the 1986 “National Prison Invasion,” 20,000 Christian volunteers going into 400 prisons nationwide, thousands of men and women accepting Christ. That’s another story, among many.

Jack Murphy had had his visits suspended for two years for some trouble he got into at Union C.I., and every Sunday he sat with my family, becoming a trusted friend. I’ll never forget my niece, Tammy’s, 12th birthday. We painted a huge banner with “Happy Birthday Tammy,” and took a photo of us holding it up.

At church that Sunday, Jack asked her, “Tammy, you’re so pretty. Are you going to be a model when you grow up?”

“No,” Tammy said, “I’m going to be a lawyer and get Charlie out of prison.”

How can you not love a girl like that? Would that she had become a lawyer and gotten Uncle Charlie out of prison. I needed the help — still do.

November 20, 1984, Murf the Surf got out of prison. It was a big deal that I’ll write more about another time. He spent two years at “The Bridge” in Orlando, then was released on parole. One of the first things he did was what we’d talked about years before, registering “Sonshine Adventure, Inc.,” a non-profit corporation. He gave me his new business card with a photo of him playing the violin, his signature instrument. Whenever he spoke at Assemblies, he would finish with the violin. Charlie Daniels’ “Devil Went Down To Georgia,” a challenging piece, was his finale.

Murf the Surf is dead. September 12, 2020. It was a shock to me. He was a man larger than life, who we thought would live forever. In 1984, in that big prison prayer circle, arms interlinked, with tears in his eyes, with emotion, Jack said, “I’m coming back for you, brother,” before he dressed in his street clothes, went out the gate, and gave his first interview to CBS, NBC, ABC News, helicopter hovering overhead.

That night at 6:30 pm, Dan Rather opened his telecast with, “Today, Jack ‘Murf the Surf’ Murphy was released from prison.” CBS broadcast video of 70 inmates singing “Amazing Grace,” and holding up a banner. That was us at Zephyrhills.

I’ve told the story of how my Aunt Alice bought me a heavy leather-bound large print Bible, so we all could read and follow along with the Bible verses being read during services. That Bible, inscribed with “To my favorite nephew, Love , Alice,” remains a prized possession thirty-four years later.

Over the years my Bible has swelled with keepsakes, church programs, photos, bookmarks. We used to be able to carry our Bibles to visit our families, but no more. They do allow us to have our Bible in lockup, fortunately, and sitting back here in “the box” after being stabbed twice last week, I began to examine all the papers and photos stashed between the pages. I learned a long time ago to always keep a couple of stamps, envelopes and writing paper in my Bible, in case of lockup, to be able to write home. This message is being written on paper that was patiently waiting inside my Bible at least ten years, sent to Libby, then sent to you.

That’s where I found Jack Murphy’s “Sonshine Adventure” business card, sitting between the pages of Isaiah for over thirty years. I’m sending Murf’s card home to Libby, to keep and share. It has quite q history.

I don’t know what will result from this situation. A prison guard paid gang members to injure me to get me out of the dorm she worked in, afraid that I would file a complaint against her, jeopardizing her illegal smuggling operation. She doesn’t realize that evil often comes to light, and once she paid the gang for evil, she will always be in their power.

As for me, I am okay, still writing, still praying, still loved by my wonderful wife. Keep the faith, and keep in touch.

Peace, joy, and love,



Boredom in Protective Custody


12-13-2020 Sunday

I’ve had to go a circuitous route the past two weeks to get my messages out of E-Dorm, Wing three, the “Protective Management Unit.” Nineteen cells, 37 prisoners, yours truly in the only one-man cell. I suppose my age — 30 years older than most of the other  inhabitants. Being targeted by a vicious mail clerk who likes to censor my emails forces me to hand write letters to Libby to translate into legible text. I have my email tablet but  the Gestapo refuses to recharge back here. My battery is down to 16%, limiting my production.

I’ve sent several messages out already, but with the snail mail delays, we are doing what we can to get the news out.

I’m fine physically, the two stab wounds healed, almost invisible scars. Just thankful that the one missed my jugular vein. I got several notes from the culprits, asking forgiveness, asking me not to identify them, saying they were sorry. Actually, I could not identify them. It happened so fast, they ran, I chased them, saw them only from the back as I chased them out of the building. The five surveillance cameras got the entire incident in color, and several inmates immediately identified them to the guards when it happened. They don’t need me.

This past Thursday, December 10, my late father’s birthday, he would have been 92, two guards woke me to go on a medical trip to the prison hospital at RMC — Lake Butler, to see the oncologist, Dr. Roy Montoya. He is a “contract doctor,” has a practice in Jacksonville, I believe, and comes to the prison hospital for consultations. I was supposed to see him a year ago. I suppose Covid-19 interrupted things, but now we’re back in the program. I also have  a colonoscopy and MRI in my future.

A three-hour drive in a prison van, north on I-95 from Daytona, I rubbernecked all the normal occurrences in free society, traffic jams, rude drivers, malls, gas stations, stores and people! none of them wearing prison uniforms. Schools, buses, semi-trucks, ambulances.

On the trip north, the two transport guards drove through the “Dunkin” drive-thru, nothing for me, but I got to see how it works. Very efficient. On the way back, they stopped at Zaxbys, which was another new experience.

I’ve had big problems getting my personal and legal property. I am pursuing a lawsuit against the FDOC, with an imminent filing deadline, and agents for the Defendant, the prison system, have hamstrung my efforts to win this suit. I am documenting everything.

No visits, no phone calls. Most difficult for me is being deprived of hearing my dear wife’s voice during our phone calls.

I did not ask for this protective custody. I did not ask for an upcoming transfer to some distant prison. I would rather go to Union C.I., Raiford, an “over 50” prison. The state classification officer in the Department of Corrections Central Office in Tallahassee has the final say. Any friends willing to call that person and lobby for a decent prison, not some distant hell hole, would be appreciated. Couldn’t hurt.

I call this “protective management” wing the debtors’ prison. Most of the inhabitants bought drugs on credit, couldn’t pay up, “checked in” for protection. Some are snitches, dodging knives. A few are gays trying to get off the compound and its pressures. I’m the only one in my situation.

Some funny occurrences — at Lake Butler I was walking down halls, finished, looking at inmates  on the benches, trying to find someone I knew — no one. A young female guard standing at the door asked, “Where you going, Norman?” She couldn’t see my ID card under my jacket.

I asked, “You know me?”

She smiled, said, “Everybody knows you, Norman.”

Coming back from Lake Butler, being escorted from Medical to E-Dorm, this usually obnoxious female sergeant walked up, standing in front of us. I’ve never said ten words to her. I usually avoid the officers, but she said, “I just wanted to see how my Norman is doing. You all right, Mr. Norman?”

I said yes, thank you for your concern. Three more female officers came over and extended their regrets for my situation.

Limited stamps, envelopes, and paper hinder my communications. If you have any questions, mail them: Charles Norman #881834, Tomoka C.I., 3950 Tiger Bay Rd., Daytona Beach, FL 32124.


Be Strong and Courageous



My eighth day in confinement.

Earlier today I was informed by classification supervisor Ted Key that I would be transferred under the authority of the state classification officer in the Florida Department of Corrections headquarters in Tallahassee. I would much prefer transfer to Union C. I., Raiford, an “over-50 years old” prison where the conditions are much better. Mr. Key said that I would remain in confinement until transfer. What is hurting me is being denied access to my legal documents and research for my active lawsuit against the FDOC. I have a new deadline of December 31st, granted by the judge last week.

One good thing about lockup is the opportunity to read the Bible. I’ve found over the years that turning to a random book of the Bible  and reading it would often provide an inspirational message, sort of like a Chinese fortune cookie for Christians.

When I got settled in last week, I did just that, opened the large-print Bible my Aunt Alice gave me 34 years ago, and found myself in the book of Joshua. Now, much of Joshua concerns the extermination of the Canaanites by the Israelites, but there are nuggets of wisdom, especially in Chapter One, that seemed to apply to me and my situation.

Four times in Chapter One the Lord commanded Joshua to “Be strong and courageous.” Once the Lord tells Joshua, “Be strong and very courageous,” and another time He says, “Only be strong and courageous!” He adds, “Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

I haven’t been terrified, but I have been discouraged, and reading those verses I felt they were talking to me. “Be strong and courageous” applies to everyone. Repeating it four times must be important.

One disappointment — every year, 42 years, I’ve enjoyed sending Christmas cards to friends and family, and actually getting a few back. In 2020, my Christmas card list took several hits, losing my mother, Lucille, Uncle David Walker, and several other family members and friends. Being preoccupied with this lawsuit the past several months has been hard, and Covid-19 has turned the world topsy-turvy. Now we are getting deep in December, and I am unprepared to send out cards. Instead, I will share my Christmas greetings — “Merry Christmas!” May 2021 be a better year for you and yours. God bless you!

Charlie Norman

“Be strong and courageous!”