RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The warden of a North Carolina prison has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations that inmates were forced to rub hot sauce on their genitals, officials said Tuesday.
Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Pamela Walker said that Sampson Correctional Institution administrator Lafayette Hall has been placed on paid leave while the State Bureau of Investigation reviews what happened at the Clinton facility. A correctional officer, David P. Jones, has also been put on leave, officials said.
"I have zero tolerance for unprofessional conduct by any state employee," Gov. Beverly Perdue said Tuesday. "I have directed the Department of Public Safety to cooperate fully with the SBI review of the allegations and to take appropriate action if these allegations prove to be true."
In July, six inmates from Sampson sent a hand-written letter to the U.S. District Court in Greensboro complaining that staff had forced them to perform numerous humiliating acts for the entertainment of guards, including stripping nude and pretending to have sex. The medium-security facility houses about 500 male inmates in Clinton, which is about 60 miles southeast of Raleigh.
The inmates also reported being forced to gulp a super-hot "Exotic Hot Sauce" purchased off the Internet and slather it on their testicles, as well as being forced to grab and kiss wild snakes while working on a road crew and throwing captured bunnies in to oncoming traffic.
Those who performed for the guards were rewarded with preferential work assignments, food, cigarettes and beer, the inmates alleged. Both tobacco and alcohol are banned in North Carolina's prisons.
In their letter, the inmates ask for the court's assistance in finding lawyers to help them file a lawsuit against the state and said they feared retaliation from the prison staff.
It is not immediately clear if the inmates have a lawyer.
Walker said the prison system first learned of the allegations through internal grievances filed by the inmates, not from the letter to the court.
Follow Biesecker at twitter.com/mbieseck