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Former Guard Who Scalded Florida Prisoner 
to Death Hired, Fired by Police Department

by David Reutter

On June 23, 2012, Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) guard Roland Clarke placed Darren Rainey, a prisoner at the Dade Correctional Institution (DCI), into a shower and locked the door. He then turned on the hot water using specially-rigged controls in another room. The 50-year-old Rainey, who suffered from schizophrenia, was being “cleaned” after defecating in his cell. Two hours later, when Clarke returned, he found Rainey dead with large amounts of his skin peeling off due to the scalding water. [See: PLN, Feb. 2016, pp.1,14].

The case went largely ignored for two years before it gained notoriety following an investigation and news report by the Miami Herald, which prompted Clarke to resign from the FDOC in 2014. He was quickly hired as a road patrol officer by the Miami Gardens Police Department.

Investigations by the department’s Internal Affairs (IA) office into his conduct since then have included an incident in which Clarke ran a red light in his police truck and crashed into another vehicle. He also was reprimanded in 2016 for calling a tow truck to remove a car that belonged to a drowning victim without securing a wallet and cell phone, which disappeared before homicide detectives could get to the car.

In September 2016, a complaint was filed that alleged Clarke was “pursuing personal relationships while he was supposed to be at work.” Despite a warning and five-day suspension, the married patrolman began and pursued another extramarital relationship in late 2017, abandoning his assigned patrol area several times to meet with his mistress.

In July 2018, the woman with whom Clarke was having an affair contacted his wife and provided a cell phone recording in which he boasted of being tipped off by co-workers about another IA investigation into his dereliction of duty.

“It’s a good thing [another officer] had my back up there,” Clarke said in the recording. “[He] got word to me through [another officer], like, ‘Hey, stop going to that girl’s house and fucking on duty’ cause she called anonymously.... They took care of that shit, that shit didn’t go nowhere.”

Clarke’s wife, who is also a police officer, has since filed for divorce.

“The behavior of which [Clarke] is accused, and the poor judgment which he has allegedly shown, is inconsistent with the high standards to which we hold all city employees,” Mayor Oliver Gilbert said in announcing that the city had begun “the process required by law and collective bargaining” to fire Clarke, 34, in the summer of 2018. “The conduct allegedly engaged in by this officer is something any person in our community would find disgusting and distasteful,” Mayor Gilbert added.

Clarke will remain on the Miami Gardens police force until the termination process is complete.

In January 2018, Rainey’s family received a $4.5 million settlement from the FDOC, $100,000 of which was paid by DCI’s former mental health care contractor, Corizon. Martha Harbin, director of external relations for the company, stressed that the payment was voluntary and did not indicate the firm accepted any liability for Rainey’s death.

FDOC Secretary Julie Jones said the settlement agreement released her agency from the lawsuit filed by Rainey’s family members. Their attorney, Milton Grimes, expressed hope the settlement would resolve claims against all the defendants in the suit, including the FDOC, Corizon and former DCI warden Jerry Cummings, as well as Clarke and another former prison guard, Cornelius Thompson. The settlement was finalized and the case dismissed on October 26, 2018. See: Chapman v. Florida Department of Corrections, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Fla.), Case No. 1:14-cv-23323-RNS.

“Even though it was a really bad and evil thing, when I look back and see the good that came as a result of attention to the problems in the prison system, I’m happy,” former DCI prisoner Harold Hempstead said of Rainey’s death.

Hempstead, who tipped off the Miami Herald about how Rainey was scalded to death in the shower, was transferred to a prison in another state. But thanks to his whistleblowing, the news of Rainey’s torturous death has spurred multiple organizations to mount new prison reform efforts, including Disability Rights Florida, the Florida Justice Institute, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU of Florida, as well as a new group called Stop Prison Abuse Now (SPAN).

In March 2017, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle announced she was not filing any criminal charges in connection with Rainey’s death because she found the testimony of witnesses, including Hempstead, to be unreliable. The U.S. Department of Justice is still investigating the case.

The FDOC opened a residential treatment facility for mentally ill state prisoners in February 2018. It is one of several new programs that have been made available for prisoners with disabilities since the Herald’s report.

“It’s sad that someone had to die to make change happen,” Hempstead said. “But they say God has a way of bringing good out of evil.” 

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Sources: Miami Herald, Miami New Times