HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Three county prison guards in Pennsylvania face charges they mistreated inmates by having them engage in a range of activities for their entertainment, from eating a spoonful of cinnamon to taking pepper spray to the face, in exchange for food and other privileges.
State police said Friday the three York County prison guards, currently suspended without pay, were charged with one count of official oppression and one count of harassment.
Police said the investigation began after supervisors asked a guard why he was observed on video grabbing an inmate around the neck. Inmates told police they had wrestled each other and two guards and allowed guards to punch them in the arms and legs.
One of the victims, state police said, "was challenged to drink a gallon of milk in an hour, eat a spoon full of cinnamon ... snort a crushed up candy bottle cap, drink a bottle of water with pepper foam in it, and eat fruit with the peels still on them. When he completed a challenge he would get lounge food and coffee."
Police said after one fight, the inmate who lost also lost his privilege to work in the prison hallways.
The guards are David Michael Whitcomb, 28, of Hellam, Mark Andrew Haynes, 26, of Jacobus, and Daniel H. Graff, 37, of York. The Associated Press was unable to reach the men for comment, but Whitcomb and Graff denied the allegations to the York Daily Record/Sunday News.
Graff told the paper it was a "get-rich-quick scheme" by the inmates, while Whitcomb described the matter as a complete fabrication.
"They've been telling other inmates that they're going to sue the York County Prison for millions of dollars," Graff told the newspaper. "Personally, I think this is what this is."
The case has not been listed in the courts' computer system, but state police spokesman Trooper Rob Hicks said the charges were filed either Thursday or Friday.
The prison issued a statement that said the men had been placed on unpaid administrative leave, and that the guards' alleged behavior runs "counter to the professional behavior county and prison management expect and require of all staff."
Graff told the newspaper the three were suspended more than three months ago. The police release said the behavior occurred between the end of January and the end of June.