On June 23, 2012, an inmate, Darren Rainey, was locked in a shower by prison guards after defecating in his cell and refusing to clean the mess. Rainey, because of his history of mental health issues, was incarcerated in the mental health unit at the Dade Correctional Unit in Miami, Florida. According to an inmate who worked at the unit as an orderly, the tiny shower was filled with steam and scalding water.
after one hour, the guards checked on Mr. Rainey. A medical document regarding his death noted that his skin was extremely burned and had shriveled from his body. The inmate, Mr. Hempstead, who allegedly witnessed the end of inmate Rainey, filed a grievance complaint stating that Mr. Rainey kept screaming, “I can’t take it no more, I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.”
Hempstead wrote, “I then seen his burnt dead body naked body go about two feet from my cell door on a stretcher.” The inmate, Mr. Rainey was incarcerated for possession of cocaine, a nonviolent crime, and had almost completed his two year sentence.
The homicide investigators were eventually called to investigate the death. By that time, another inmate, claimed in a letter to the inspector general that he was ordered to “clean up the crime scene” before the investigators had arrived at the facility.
It is almost June 2014, and the investigation is still unresolved. The Miami-Dade medical examiner has not completed an autopsy. The police have not arrested anyone for Mr. Rainey’s death. The Florida Department of Corrections stopped their investigation claiming no autopsy and no arrests by the police. There was a video camera in the shower area, but the inspector general’s report noted that it malfunctioned right after Rainey was locked in the shower. The Florida Department of Corrections claims that inmate Rainey died from a heart attack.
Can we consider this tragedy an isolated prison event? In March, PrisonPath posted an article about a former marine baked to death in a Riker’s cell. In that case, the inmate, Mr. Murdough, had mental health issues and was arrested for trespassing. Although this incident was not supposedly intentional, the treatment of this former Marine was further proof of the stunning indifference of many of our prisons and jails to the welfare of their inmates. While this former Marine was dying over several hours–What were the correctional officers doing? This callous attitude toward inmates can be found in other states. In Texas, 13 inmates have died from heat related deaths during the last five years. The dead inmate’s body temperatures have ranged from 106 degrees to 109 degrees. “I’m supposed to be watching them, I’m not supposed to be boiling them in their cells,” said one corrections supervisor for one of the Texas prisons.
There is no forgivable answer to the scalding death of Mr. Rainey. Mr. Rainey’s death is further proof that our American prison-jail system is broken.
By Bradley Schwartz
Founder of prisonpath.com