The purported details of Darren Rainey’s last hour are difficult to read.
“I can’t take it no more, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again,’’ he screamed over and over, according to a grievance complaint from a fellow inmate, as Rainey was allegedly locked in a shower with the scalding water turned on full blast.
A 50-year-old mentally ill inmate at the Dade Correctional Institution, Rainey was pulled into the locked shower by prison guards as punishment after defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up, said the fellow inmate, who worked as an orderly. He was left there unattended for more than an hour as the narrow chamber filled with steam and water.
When guards finally checked on prisoner 060954, he was on his back and dead. His skin was so burned that it had shriveled from his body, a condition referred to as slippage, according to a medical document involving the death.
But nearly two years after Rainey’s death on June 23, 2012, the Miami-Dade medical examiner has yet to complete an autopsy and Miami-Dade police have not charged anyone. The Florida Department of Corrections halted its probe into the matter, saying it could be restarted if the autopsy and police investigation unearth new information.
“They told people that he had a heart attack,’’ said a source close to the prison system with knowledge of the case.
The shower treatment was only one form of punishment inflicted by the prison’s guards to keep mentally ill patients in line, according to the inmate/orderly and two other sources privy to the goings-on at the state prison.
The inmate/orderly, a convicted burglar named Harold Hempstead serving a decades-long sentence, filed repeated formal complaints, beginning in January 2013, with the DOC inspector general, alleging that prison guards subjected inmates — housed in the mental health unit — to extreme physical abuse and withheld food from some who became unruly. The complaints were sent back, most with a short, type-written note saying the appeal was being returned “without action” or had already been addressed.
In September, another inmate was found dead inside his cell. Richard Mair, 40, hanged himself from an air conditioning vent.
According to the police report, Mair left a suicide note in his boxer shorts claiming he and other prisoners were sexually and physically abused on a routine basis by guards.
DOC officials declined to be interviewed for this story. A spokeswoman said Friday that the agency would provide public records in response to the newspaper’s formal written requests, but no comments.
Over the past several weeks, the newspaper has requested maintenance records, grievance logs, prison death records, guards’ disciplinary records and emails by administrators, including DCI Warden Jerry Cummings.
As of Friday, the agency had released a handful of documents: a single report about a prison guard admonished for falling asleep on duty last year; brief, coded disciplinary records for Hempstead, Rainey and several other inmates who Hempstead says were also subjected to searing hot showers as punishment; and a heavily redacted copy of the DOC inspector general’s report on Rainey’s death.
On Friday, the Herald learned from three independent sources that Cummings and four of his top aides had been temporarily relieved of duty last week.
It’s not clear why Cummings and other administrators were suspended, or for how long.
The DOC did not respond to an email query about the suspensions late Friday.
Rainey’s family, meanwhile, finds the silence surrounding his death disturbing.
“Two years is a very long time to wait to find out why your brother was found dead in a shower,’’ said Rainey’s brother, Andre Chapman.
Rainey, who was serving a two-year sentence for possession of cocaine, was scheduled to be released in July.
Between January and February 2013, Hempstead filed numerous grievances and complaints with DOC officials about Rainey’s death, all alleging that the circumstances were being covered up.
His reports, replete with the names of other inmate witnesses and prison guards on duty that evening, describe what he and others purportedly saw and heard that night. The details in his complaints match the wording in the inspector general’s report — at least the parts not redacted.
The inspector general’s report said that the video camera in the shower area showed DOC officer Roland Clarke place Rainey in the shower at 7:38 p.m.
Hempstead said the shower had sufficient room for an inmate to avoid a direct hit from the spray, but that the extreme heat would eventually make the air unbreathable as the scalding water lapped at inmates’ feet.
Hempstead wrote that he and other inmates, whose cells are directly below the shower, began hearing Rainey’s screams about 8:55 p.m. It went on for about 30 minutes before it sounded like he fell to the shower floor, he said in his complaint.
The DOC inspector general’s report said Clarke found Rainey dead at 9:30 p.m. and called for medical assistance.
“I then seen [sic] his burnt dead body naked body go about two feet from my cell door on a stretcher,’’ Hempstead wrote.
Miami-Dade homicide investigators were called to the prison.
But another inmate, a convicted murderer named Mark Joiner, wrote in a letter to the inspector general that he was ordered to “clean up the crime scene’’ prior to the area being secured.
Early in the week after the incident, maintenance workers at the prison disabled the plumbing that fed the shower, Hempstead told the Herald in an interview at the prison.
Despite all his written complaints, Hempstead was never interviewed by anyone from the prison system, he said. Another inmate was spoken to, according to the report. That’s presumably Joiner, although the DOC will not divulge the name. The Herald is waiting for a transcript of that interview, which DOC officials said would be redacted of any information pertaining to an open criminal investigation.
As for the video camera in the shower area, the inspector general’s report noted that it malfunctioned right after Clarke put Rainey in the shower. As a result, the disc that may have recorded what happened was “damaged,’’ the report said.
The redacted report doesn’t say how Rainey’s body was found, whether the water was on or off when he was found or whether state investigators ever questioned any of the guards or nurses in the unit at the time of Rainey’s death.
The union that represents the prison guards was not aware of the incident as of this past week. No record was provided to the Herald to indicate that anyone has been held accountable for what happened.
The purported details of Darren Rainey’s last hour are difficult to read.
I really fucking hate humans sometimes...
That sick feeling in your stomach
These kinds of stories make my blood boil.
Sorry liberals, but this guy shouldn't have shit on the floor. Doesn't happen to decent people.
All I can say is wow... I work in a similar field up in Canada, I used to work in the forensics ward of the local psych hospital. Things used to be a lot worse than they are now. I would imagine that the ill people were a lot less innocent than the article implies, meaning violence against the guards and each other, rape among inmates etc. With all that being said, these punishments are cruel and unusual, they are completely unacceptable and should be fired and charged on the spot. Gross negligence and the torture of a mentally ill man by the people who should he looking after him should garner more media attention as well.
Gross and wow and horrible.