Former North Carolina prisoners allege they were tortured with hot sauce

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Thomas Patten and Gary Parker.

Two ex-cons, who acknowledge that as ex-cons they automatically have a credibility problem, told ABC11 in an exclusive interview Wednesday that they were tortured while working on a road crew in the North Carolina prison system.

Thomas Patten was convicted almost eight years ago of armed robbery and just recently released from prison.

"I know I was wrong for what I done," said Patten. "I paid for it, but I shouldn't have had to go through what I had to go through."

He and Gary Parker worked side by side on the Sampson County Correctional Center road unit back in 2012.

It is considered a privilege to work on the road crew according to Patten.

"I love to go and work out there on the road squad because I got to be outside the gates," he told ABC11.

But Patten and Parker say the privilege turned to torture. The two have joined two dozen other former and current inmates in filing a federal lawsuit against two former correctional officers, their supervisors, and the state.

Click here to read the full lawsuit (.pdf)

The allegations in the lawsuit are numerous.

Among the most outrageous - that those on the road crew were forced to ingest the hottest hot sauces money can buy - sometimes leaving blisters in their mouths and causing them to pass blood.
And some say that wasn't the only use for the spicy liquid.

"I get woke up being held down by my shoulders with another inmate with a blue rubber glove on holding me down rubbing hot sauce on my private parts. You know, that's a sexual assault," said Parker.

One of the attorneys who has filed the federal civil suit says he knows a lot of people won't believe convicts - especially those with violent backgrounds like Parker and Patten.

"That doesn't change the fact that that they should not have been systematically abused, humiliated, subjected to racial and physical torture for sport and profit at the hands of the people who were supposed to be protecting them," said Christian Dysart.

Dysart said he believes the fact that some won't believe the allegations of convicts is exactly why they were targeted.

Part of the alleged scheme was to pit inmates against each other by giving some on the road crew access to cell phones, cigarettes, and even alcohol in exchange for bribes.

Then, they would be ordered to beat and torture any inmate who refused to perform acts of humiliation.

"When you're that alone, that one lone person that refuses and denies to do what they want to do, want you to do, you're not only making the officers mad you are making the inmates mad," said Parker.

Both Parker and Patten say they are determined to stay out of jail.

Patten - an apologetic armed robber who served more than seven years - says he simply wants to continue working full time to take care of his wife and three young daughters.

"I don't never want to see another prison. I just want to just take care of my family," said Patten.

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