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Guard’s Lethal Scalding of Prisoner Unresolved after Two Years

by David Reutter

More than two years after prisoners Darren Rainey’s dead body was removed from the shower in the mental health unit at Florida’s Dade Correctional Institution (DCI), no official cause of death has been ruled and the case sits dormant in law enforcement files.

Rainey, a mentally ill prisoner, was moved at 7:38 P.M. on June 23, 2012, from his cell to the shower as punishment for defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up. The escorting guard, Roland Clark, locked Rainey into the shower.

According to grievances obtained by The Miami Herald through public records requests, prisoner Harold Hampstead reported witnessing Rainey’s death. He said he was subject to a searing hot shower for the duration of the time in shower, and that other prisoners had been subject to scalding hot showers as punishment. “I can’t take it no more, I’m sorry. I won’t do that again,” Hampstead wrote he heard Rainey scream over and over. “I then seen [sic] his burnt dead body go about two feet from my cell door on a stretcher.”

Hampstead wrote that he and other prisoners heard Rainey start screaming at about 8:55. That continued for about 30 minutes until they heard him fall to the floor.

Clarke reported that he made 30 minute security checks, but that Rainey had not showered and had feces all over his body.” Guard Cornelius Thompson reported that he checked on Rainey at 9:00 P.M., but he “Still had not showered and still had feces on his body.”

Then at 9:30, Clarke reportedly made a security check and found Rainey. He radioed for help, several other guards arrived. Lt. A. Lopez arrived and pronounced Rainey dead at 10:07.

According to George Mallinckrodt, a psychotherapist who worked on the wing, the controls in the shower were broke and guards controlled the temperature and shut-off valve. The water in the shower was allegedly a scalding 160 degrees or more. Witnesses, several former DCI employees, and medical documentation involving Rainey’s death state that portions of his body were so burned that the skin shriveled, a condition known as slippage.

Miami-Dade police have not charged anyone in the death of Rainey, 50, who was serving a two-year sentence on a cocaine charge and was due to be released in July 2012. Because the video of the incident was allegedly damaged while Inspector Carrie Ryan from the Florida Department of Correction’s (FDOC) Office of Inspector General was viewing it, evidence of what really occurred has been lost.

Another incident at DCI shed light on the torture and abuse that guards inflict upon prisoners. Before he hanged himself in his mental health unit cell on September 11, 2013, prisoner Richard Mair, 40, wrote a suicide note that he stashed in a pocket of his boxer shorts. The note said guard forced prisoners to perform sexual acts and threatened them if they filed complaints. He identified guards by name who gambled on duty, sold marijuana and cigarettes, and stole money and property belonging to prisoners. “If they didn’t like you, they put you on a starvation diet,” he wrote.

He also alleged guards encouraged racism by making white and black prisoners fight while guards bet on the outcome. An inspector general’s report into Mair’s death failed to address the claims of his suicide note.

A letter Hampstead’s family wrote to Gov. Rick Scott stated that following publication of The Miami Herald investigation into Rainey’s death, Hampstead was threatened by guards with false disciplinary reports and placement in solitary confinement if he continued to talk to the media and police, who interviewed him after the Herald’s report was published.

What has held up the case for more than two years is left to interpretation. Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Dr. Bruce Hyma said in May 2014 that he completed Rainey’s investigation over 18 months ago. “We are waiting on law enforcement interpretation to interpret the medical findings,” he said in explaining why he has not issued a cause of death if the autopsy merits that action. Miami-Dade says the case remains open.

Source: Miami Herald