Troubling accusations against York County Prison Guards

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State Police are investigating three York County Prison corrections officers, accused of running a fight club and forcing inmates to participate in humiliating acts, deemed the “Retard Olympics.” The revelations came about during an internal investigation of criminal mischief occurring in the South Block of the prison. Investigators saw a Corrections Officer grab an inmate around the neck on surveillance video. That inmate, David Wright, 27, of Red Lion, was then asked to provide investigators with a written statement of what was going on in the South Block of the prison.

Wright reported three of the corrections officers on the block, David Whitcomb, Mark Haynes and Daniel Graff, arranged for Wright to wrestle another inmate for special privileges, namely food from the lounge and extra coffee. The fight, against inmate James Hicks, 27, of Dover, took place in a closet in the south block. The officers instructed the inmates on the rules: no punching in the face, and the winner would be the inmate who got the other to tap out, or submit. Wright won the fight, and as punishment for losing, Hicks was not allowed to work in the hallway.

Wright was also forced to wrestle Officer Graff, 37, of York. Wright says Graff choked him out and Wright tapped out. Officer Whitcomb told Wright he would give him lounge food if he could punch him in the leg and give him a ‘dead leg.’ Wright allowed Whitcomb to punch him. Officer Haynes offered Wright lounge food if he could take a punch in the arm from Haynes without falling. Wright allowed Haynes to hit him, but never received the promised reward. Wright also accuses Graff of pepper spraying him in the face, with a promise of coffee for Wright. Wright says Graff sprayed him with pepper foam and then renegged on the coffee.

Hicks was also asked for a statement. He stated he was part of something in the South Block called the ‘Retard Olympics.’ He reported he would “do stupid stuff for food and coffee.” This activity was organized by Corrections Officers Haynes, Whitcomb and Graff. Hicks was challenged to drink a gallon of milk in an hour, eat a spoonful of cinnamon, snort a line of spicy vegetable Roman Noodle powder, snort crushed up bottle cap candies, drink a bottle of water with pepper foam in it and eat unpeeled fruits. When he performed one of these humiliating tasks, the guards would give him lounge food and coffee. Hicks then said the challenges became more physical. Officers Graff and Whitcomb would wrestle him or punch him in the legs and arms until they went numb. Hicks says Whitcomb choked him out one time. Hicks admits that he consented to the challenges and that the corrections officers ‘paid’ him with food or coffee. Hicks corroborated Wright’s story about the two of them fighting in the storage closet under the corrections officers watch.

York County Prison released the following statement:

ā€œEarlier this year, while conducting an unrelated investigation into pen/marker graffiti and other minor vandalism inside an area of the facility, prison administration learned of possible unprofessional conduct by three corrections officers. Management immediately began an internal investigation.

Based on evidence obtained during the internal investigation, the three officers were placed on unpaid administrative leave and the matter was turned over to the Pennsylvania State Police for further investigation and possible criminal charges. The York County Prison and its staff actively cooperated with the State Police investigation.

Each day, hundreds of corrections officers work diligently to maintain the security of the Prison and ensure the safety and well-being of inmates and fellow corrections officers. The actions alleged by Pennsylvania State Police in this case run counter to the professional behavior County and Prison management expect and require of all staff. Misconduct within any County agency is not tolerated.

Because this is an active criminal case and personnel matter, the Prison and County cannot provide any further comment. Requests for further information should be directed to Pennsylvania State Police.

The three officers remain on unpaid administrative leave.ā€