In 2012, Darren Rainey, an inmate at the Dade Correctional Institution, died a truly excruciating death. He was allegedly scalded to death in a scalding shower, where guards placed him under the hot water for two hours before he succumbed.
The following year, an inmate who was transferred from Dade to another prison informed a prisoner’s rights organization that he had been ordered by guards to clean the shower after Rainey’s death, which included removing pieces of skin that had sloughed off Rainey’s body.
The inmate reported that guards had often used the scalding shower treatment to “discipline” mentally ill inmates. Five years later, it appears no one will be held responsible for Rainey’s death, as Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle released a report stating that Rainey’s death was accidental.
No criminal charges will be filed.
Rainey’s tragedy is part of a culture at Dade that permitted abuse of mentally ill patients by prison guards. Florida ranks 49th in spending on per-capita mental health services, according to the New Yorker. As it true throughout the country, prison has become the de facto psychiatric institution for many of the mentally ill, incarcerated for low level crimes and simply warehoused until they are released … or die.
I Can’t Take It Anymore
Rainey, 50, was serving two years for cocaine possession at Dade, but he also suffered from schizophrenia. On the night of his death, Rainey apparently defecated on himself, and guards took him out of his cell and put him in a shower stall, locking him inside.
The guards could turn the water on from outside the shower stall, and they reportedly turned the water on as high as 180 degrees. That’s hot enough to brew tea.
Other inmates could hear Rainey yelling, “I can’t take it anymore.” When the guards checked on Rainey two hours later, he was dead on the floor of the shower stall with skin falling off his body. The report released in 2017 states that the cause of Rainey’s death was schizophrenia, heart disease and “confinement in a shower.”
The Autopsy Report
It took four years for Rainey’s autopsy report to be completed. While the Medical Examiner deemed the death accidental and stated there were no burns or trauma on the body, others on the scene and photographs do not support that conclusion.
The Miami Herald reports that photos reveal,
“Skin curling from nearly every part of his body, from the top of his nose to his ankles. Large swaths of exposed body tissue, some of it blood red, and other portions straw yellow. Skin blistering on portions of his face, his ears and his neck. Deep red tissue exposed on his chest, his back, a thigh and an arm. Yellow tissue exposed on his buttocks and left leg. About the only portion of his body not affected are his feet.”
That gruesome description matches the report written the night of Rainey’s death by paramedic Alexander Lopez, who stated Rainey had second-and-third-degree burns on 30 percent of his body.
Prison officials pressured Rainey’s family to have him cremated. It’s now pretty obvious why they didn’t want his body buried intact where it could be exhumed.
A Culture of Intimidation at Dade Correctional
Many of the staff members knew about the type of “punishments” Rainey and other mentally ill inmates received at the hands of guards at Dade. A culture of intimidation at the facility kept them from reporting the abuse.
Once staff members started calling out such conduct, retribution was generally swift and often dangerous.
One prison psychotherapist was fired for specious reasons after complaining about guards stomping on a prisoner, while a counselor who didn’t like the fact that inmates were often denied their right to use an exercise yard found that guards would “inadvertently” leave her unprotected among the inmates.
The message was clear to staff: Staying silent meant staying safe.
Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit
Perhaps some good can still come out of the terrible tale of Darren Rainey. His family has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, naming the Florida Department of Corrections and Corizon, the private company responsible for prison health care at the time of Rainey’s death, as defendants. Corizon has previously been accused of not providing adequate services for mentally ill inmates.
At different institutions under its (Corizon’s) management, the company has allegedly “failed to conduct sex offender screenings, didn't evaluate prisoners before dispensing psychotropic drugs, ignored inmate-declared psychological emergencies and was derelict in monitoring inmates placed on "self-harm observational status," according to the Tampa Bay Times. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
Prison inmates have the right to not be abused or killed. When those rights are violated our civil rights lawyers can file a lawsuit to stop the conduct and hold the guilty accountable with financial compensation for victims or, in the case of wrongful death or the mentally ill, their families. If you think you have a case, we hope to hear from you to see how we can help. Learn Your Rights 866.836.4684 OR EMAIL US