Florida’s Department of Corrections, embarrassed by reports of a mentally ill inmate killed by guards — allegedly when they locked him in a brutally hot shower and left him — says it is instituting a series of system-wide reforms.
The measures will be unveiled Wednesday morning at a news conference at Everglades Correctional Institution.
“Stories report we have fallen short in specific instances with regard to facility leadership, safety, security, training and services for mentally ill inmates,” said Mike Crews, secretary of the department. “We’re fixing the problems that have been identified and as we identify new issues, we will fix those too. Our department should be held to the highest standards, and I have zero tolerance for anything less.”
Two years ago in June, 50-year-old Darren Rainey was marched into a locked, closet-like shower and left there for as long as two hours, until he collapsed and died. The shower was used on several occasions as a form of punishment for mentally ill inmates, fellow inmates have told the Herald.
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Rainey, a Tampa area man serving two years for cocaine possession, had angered guards by defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up, according to inmates, who said he cried out in vain for help. The death was disclosed by the Miami Herald earlier this year, along with efforts by fellow inmates and staffers to call attention to it, all of which had been disregarded by the department.
Miami-Dade police, charged with investigating Rainey’s death, did not interview witnesses until the Herald began asking questions. The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s Office still has not released a cause of death.
In the wake of news reports, the warden of the institution, Jerry Cummings, was fired and the corrections officer primarily responsible for placing Rainey in the shower has left. The Department of Corrections suspended its administrative investigation of the incident in 2012 pending completion of the police probe.
According to Crews, the department will:
Expand its crisis intervention training for corrections officers “so they don’t unintentionally escalate an incident or hurt an individual with our use-of-force techniques.”
Develop specialized reentry centers for inmates who suffer from mental illness. One will be at Everglades Correctional.
Create a “transparency database” for disseminating information on inmates who die in the custody of the department.
Have the Florida Department of Law Enforcement handle all future investigations of inmate deaths that are the result of “non-natural causes.”