The loud banging of the tray slot, otherwise known as the cuff port, awakens me at precisely 7:04 am. Breakfast is here. It’s late though, because it usually arrives between 5:30 and 6 o’clock in the morning. Something must have happened on the compound (general population).

I say something must have happened, because I really don’t know — I’m assuming, being that I’m currently housed in the Special Housing Unit (S.H.U), which is just a fancy name for the “hole” or solitary confinement.  And the S.H.U at the United States Penitentiary-Coleman 2 is definitely a shit hole. I’m certainly hoping breakfast is more than the cardboard brown bran flakes, with two milks, that they endlessly have a supply of. I inspect my tray and I’m quickly disillusioned. The same old bran flakes sit stale in their portion slot expecting to be devoured by my hungry mouth. But not today. I’m not in the mood for cereal. So I hand my tray over to my cellmate, and he quickly relieves me of the flakes.

I’m not hungry because I’m pissed about my unjustified S.H.U assignment. Today is Friday and I’m glad for it. On Fridays the administration does their weekly walkthrough. It’s a good thing because it gives “us,” the inmates, an opportunity to voice our grievances directly to the counselors, case managers, captain and right on up to the warden. And boy do I have a grievance.

Twenty-eight days ago I was called up to the Lieutenant’s Office. When I got there a Special Investigations Services (S.I.S.) officer called me into his office. The first thing that I noticed was that his chair was being occupied by a suited man that I had never seen before. I looked back to the SIS officer and asked, “What do you want?”

To my disbelief, he told me that he needed my assistance in testifying against persons I didn’t even know. Shock must have registered on my face because the suited man quickly identified himself as the lead prosecutor in the case. He told me that the government was prepared to offer me significant time-off for my help. I was offended by the audacity of the SIS officer and the willingness of the U.S Attorney to use testimony from a prisoner (me) who had no idea what was going on, and wasn’t even connected to the defendants in his case — in any shape, form or fashion. I declined the offer and was excused back to my unit.

Approximately thirty minutes later, I was again summoned back to the Lt.’s office. When I arrived, the SIS Lieutenant met me at the door. I mistakenly thought he was going to attempt to gain my cooperation – which I again planned to politely refuse to give. Instead, he asked me if I had a problem with the Special Investigations Services or any of its officers. To which I replied, “absolutely not.”

Then he sent my mind reeling… He accused me of putting a “hit” on one of his officers and even having the officer followed home. I was immediately handcuffed and escorted to the S.H.U. [the hole].

A search of my cell produced two homemade shanks found inside the toilet’s flushing mechanism. The shanks were not mine. They were planted. I never put a hit out on S.I.S. It was all fabricated to punish me for refusing to participate in their slimy proposition to be a prison snitch. That was twenty-eight days ago. So excuse me if I don’t feel like bran flakes today.

This type of abuse of authority is commonplace in prison. I ended up doing forty-two days on administrative segregation [a category of solitary] – at which time the hit was determined to be phony and the investigation was dropped. I was released back to the compound to continue serving my sentence.

I never knew what happened to the other guy.

Hanoi Acosta is serving 22 years in Federal Prison for the transportation of a 16-year old minor in interstate commerce for prostitution. 

To contact the author directly, please write to:

Hanoi Acosta #87406-00

Federal Correctional Complex

USP Coleman-2

PO Box 1034

Coleman, FL 33521