In a Sunday article titled, Behind bars, a brutal and unexplained death, the Miami Herald published the unconscionable details of 50-year-old inmate Darren Rainey’s last hour of life at the hands of staff at the Dade Correctional Institution, near Miami. Mr. Rainey was serving two years for cocaine possession, and since he was mentally ill, he was housed on a mental unit. Julie K Brown at the Herald writes:
The purported details of Darren Rainey’s last hour are difficult to read.
“I can’t take it no more, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again,’’ he screamed over and over, according to a grievance complaint from a fellow inmate, as Rainey was allegedly locked in a shower with the scalding water turned on full blast.
A 50-year-old mentally ill inmate at the Dade Correctional Institution, Rainey was pulled into the locked shower by prison guards as punishment after defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up, said the fellow inmate, who worked as an orderly. He was left there unattended for more than an hour as the narrow chamber filled with steam and water.
When guards finally checked on prisoner 060954, he was on his back and dead. His skin was so burned that it had shriveled from his body, a condition referred to as slippage, according to a medical document involving the death.
According to the article, the incident happened nearly two years ago, but there has been no autopsy, the investigation has been closed, and no charges have been filed. The information only came to light because another inmate, who was working as an orderly, filed formal grievances about this and other incidents as well. The article explains:
The shower treatment was only one form of punishment inflicted by the prison’s guards to keep mentally ill patients in line, according to the inmate/orderly and two other sources privy to the goings-on at the state prison.
The inmate/orderly, a convicted burglar named Harold Hempstead serving a decades-long sentence, filed repeated formal complaints, beginning in January 2013, with the DOC inspector general, alleging that prison guards subjected inmates — housed in the mental health unit — to extreme physical abuse and withheld food from some who became unruly. The complaints were sent back, most with a short, type-written note saying the appeal was being returned “without action” or had already been addressed.
Furthering its investigation and based on what three former employees related, the Herald published a subsequent article titled, Staff at a Miami-Dade prison tormented, abused mentally ill inmates, former worker says. One of the former employees was a psychotherapist assigned to the mental unit prior to Darren Rainey’s death, but a former colleague told him of the details. The psychotherapist, named George Mallinckrodt, filed a complaint with the US Department of Justice last month, about Mr. Rainey, as well as a “series of other incidents.” The Herald explains:
In his letter, Mallinckrodt said that guards “taunted, tormented, abused, beat, and tortured chronically mentally ill inmates on a regular basis,” hoping to provoke a response so the inmates could then be punished. He described specific incidents of alleged abuse, including the beating of inmate Joseph Swilling, a longtime criminal who showed Mallinckrodt his injuries during an anger management session.
Swilling said guards handcuffed him behind his back and led him into a hallway out of range of video cameras, where they threw him on the floor and repeatedly kicked him.
A murderer who hung himself in the unit last September, Richard Mair, left a suicide note in his shorts accusing guards of sexually abusing inmates and forcing black and white inmates to fight each other for the entertainment of staff.
Mallinckrodt said he filed a variety of complaints with the prison and the Department of Corrections’ inspector general about the abusive treatment, but never received a response. He said he also took his concerns directly to Warden Jerry Cummings.
Mallinckrodt said the handles in that shower were broken in the “on” position and guards controlled the flow from the central shut-off valve, where they were able to turn up the water temperature to excruciating levels.
In his letter to the Department of Justice, Mallinckrodt said that after Rainey’s death, a nurse called him saying she had overheard a corrections officer remark: “I don’t think we can get away with this one.”
Fyodor Dostoyevsky said, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”
Aside from an apparent temporary suspension of the warden and a few others for “deficiencies in the kitchen” noted during an audit of Dade Correctional Institution, according to the article, nothing has been done. It is reasonable to assume that staff will continue its brutal abuse of patient inmates in the mental unit, and killing for sport at the facility will continue unbridled.
And that is unacceptable, and inexcusable.
After latest death, Florida prison system faces more scrutiny
“FDLE is investigating an inmate death that occurred Thursday. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade police say they failed to save the 911 tape in the unexplained death of another inmate.”
Photo by Tami Jo Urban under Creative Commons license