Civil Liberties

Florida Prisoner Dies After Being Scalded With Hot Water for Hours. Two Years Later, Guards Haven't Been Held Accountable


Darren Rainey was a 50-year-old, mentally-ill prisoner serving a two-year sentence for cocaine possession in the Dade Correctional Institution's psychiatric ward in Miami, Florida. On June 23, 2012, he died after being forced into a shower by prison guards and then scalded with hot water for almost two hours.

From the Miami Herald:

While guards who placed him there claimed he was checked "periodically," other inmates have said the guards turned up the temperature as far as they could, and corrections officers allegedly taunted Rainey and walked away as he screamed in pain.

He finally collapsed and died, his skin so scalded that chunks of his flesh had fallen off his body. Afterward, one inmate claimed he was ordered to clean up the site.

For two years, no one was held accountable. The Florida Department of Corrections Inspector General's office closed the investigation into Rainey's death without so much as issuing a slap on the wrist to corrections officers involved.

In fact, those officers were promoted, and it wasn't until The Miami Herald began asking questions that anything happened with the case. The department only reopened it after the newspaper filed a lawsuit to gain access to public documents that the department had refused to release about Rainey's death. Emails released to the newspaper show that the warden was called to the scene the night Rainey died and other upper-level management had been briefed about his death.

Since then, the two corrections officers involved have resigned. The prison warden was eventually fired, after being suspended in connection with the death of another inmate. 

To date, Rainey's family doesn't know his official cause of death:

Rainey's brother, Andre Chapman, has never been contacted by anyone from the agency other than the prison's chaplain, who told him about his brother's death two years ago. Rainey's death certificate does not have a cause of death even though Medical Examiner Bruce Hyma said the autopsy was conducted 18 months ago.

The medical examiner has said he's "waiting for police to finish their probe."

In light of the re-opened investigation, the America Civil Liberties Union of Florida (in conjunction with other civil rights groups)  has sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder urging the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate Rainey's death and the treatment of mentally ill inmates in Florida. The letter also notes the botched investigation from the police called to the scene.

The Miami Dade Police conducted no interviews, failing even to interview the nurse on duty at DCI that evening who examined Rainey's body. Key evidence, including the audio tape of the 911 call, was not preserved, which might have shed light on why there was a 20 minute delay in calling paramedics to the prison when Rainey's body was finally discovered.

Rainey's death is one of seven prison deaths in Florida that is under scrutiny.