March 19, 2017

Prosecutors Find No Wrongdoing in Shower Death at Dade Correctional Mental Health Unit

George's Note:

Having worked for three years as a psychotherapist in the psychiatric ward at the Dade Correctional Institution, the absurdity of the state attorney's "Swiss Cheese" report justifying the lack of criminal charges against cruel, evil, sadistic guards is more than self-evident. I know from experience that guards lied regularly on incident reports to cover up their crimes against patients in my former unit. After guards beat one of my patients, I attempted to advocate for their protection in a morning staffing. My pleadings to hold guards accountable were met with silence and blank stares. Even the head of the psychiatric unit, Dr. Christina Perez, took no corrective action to address my concerns.

Unwilling to stay silent and look the other way, I was fired two months later. The dismissal of the only mental health professional to raise a voice sent a message loud and clear - there was nobody left to interfere with the depravity that would soon envelop the unit. Within months men were being tortured with scalding showers until guards killed Darren Rainey. At least two other staffers, including Harriet Krzykowski, were eye witnesses to beatings that went unreported out of fear of retaliation from guards.

The actions of Cornelius Thompson and Roland Clark directly led to the death of Rainey - a fact not in dispute. At a bare minimum, it was manslaughter. That Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle believed the guards' account was ample proof of her ignorance of the hostile, toxic working environment in the psych ward. Add to that Dr. Lew's final autopsy report that conflicts with the preliminary report, and the recipe for the cover up was complete. 

Setting aside this travesty of justice, one of many in the FDC and prison systems nationwide, the vastly larger issue screaming for attention is how a lack of mental health treatment in America directly contributes to the mass incarceration of the severely mentally ill. Darren Rainey was poor, black, and mentally ill. His killing is symptomatic of the failure of our country to address mental health issues in our schools and communities. We have little in the way of safety nets for at-risk children and young adults suffering from mental illness. Many children, out of fear of being ostracized or bullied, suffer in silence. Having also worked in a psychiatric middle school setting for Dade County schools, I have witnessed first hand how a program of early intervention can turn a student's life around.

When mental health treatment is provided early, the chances of a child's life being derailed by mental illness declines dramatically. Those like Darren Rainey who can't get treatment end up dropping out, self-medicating with street drugs, and falling in with the wrong crowd. Once they're arrested for behavior that is often a manifestation of untreated mental illness, they enter the nightmarish quagmire that is our criminal justice system.

The cost of treating individual children and young adults with mental illness is far less than the $24,000 a year per inmate that Florida spends today - a paltry figure that is one of the lowest in the U.S. Every dollar spent on children will save twenty times as much down the road and will help insure that they become productive members of society. Spending tax dollars wisely on mental health will benefit many who now live without treatment, reduce the vast numbers of the mentally ill in prisons and jails, and as a consequence, permanently close costly prisons. It's a win-win proposition that will insure prisons and jails are no longer warehouses for the mentally ill. It is up to all of us to pressure lawmakers to fund mental health initiatives; otherwise, Darren Rainey's brutal death will be in vain.



MARCH 17, 2017 4:32 PM

Prosecutors find no wrongdoing in shower death at Dade Correctional mental health unit


BY JULIE K. BROWN

A 101-page investigation released Friday concludes that corrections officers who locked a schizophrenic inmate in a hot shower at Dade Correctional Institution and left him there for nearly two hours — until realizing he was dead — committed no crime.

The report, issued by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle, said the death of 50-year-old prisoner Darren Rainey was an accident, the result of complications from his mental illness, a heart condition and “confinement in a shower.”

At least six inmates claimed that the shower was specially rigged so that corrections officers controlled the temperature and were able to crank it up to scalding — or down to an uncomfortably frigid spray, thereby using it as punishment to control unruly inmates, most of whom suffered from mental illnesses.

But the state attorney’s two-year probe decided that the inmates’ statements were not credible.

While the report cited significant inconsistencies in the accounts of inmates, it acknowledged the same was true to a lesser degree of the accounts of staffers, although there was “general agreement on a core set of salient facts.”

Sgt. John Fan Fan, and officers Cornelius Thompson, Ronald Clarke and Edwina Williams — the staffers involved in putting Rainey into the shower — did not act with premeditation, malice, recklessness, ill-will, hatred or evil intent, the state attorney said.

The report includes photographs, videos, dozens of witness statements, the medical examiner’s summary, prison housing logs, timelines and other documents.

Milton Grimes, the attorney representing Rainey’s siblings, suggested the report’s release, late on a Friday, on St. Patrick’s Day, was meant to limit public scrutiny of the clear “inadequacies” of the investigation.

“We are appalled that the state attorney did not look deeper into this case and see the criminality of the people who were involved,” Grimes said. He said the family is disappointed, but remains hopeful that federal investigators still probing possible civil rights abuses will find justice.

Grimes suggested that police and state attorney investigators gave too much weight to corrections officers’ testimony and not enough to the broader context — news reports and inmate grievances suggesting prison staff has been abusing inmates at the prison for years.

Others also questioned whether the case was thorough.

“A lot of evidence was tampered with because the people there who had an interest did not want it to come out,” said Harriet Krzykowski, a former mental health counselor at the prison who was not interviewed as part of the probe.

Among the most controversial portions of the state inquiry is the temperature of the shower. The report gives no indication that crime scene investigators turned on the water to see how hot it ran. A prison captain, assigned as the environmental health and safety officer, tested it two days after Rainey’s death and found it to be 160 degrees, far greater than the 120-degree limit set by the state.

But her reading was dismissed as not indicative of the temperature when Rainey was inside.

Other than two prison officers, a nurse and a paramedic, no one was interviewed by police — including multiple inmate witnesses who had reached out to various law enforcement authorities — until two years later, when the Miami Herald began raising questions about the case as part of what would become a three-year probe into corruption in Florida prisons.

The final report does not address why the case was put on hold, or why, nearly five years later, the autopsy has never been released.

Dr. Emma Lew, Miami-Dade’s medical examiner, was emphatic, however, that Rainey did not suffer burns of any kind, and there was no evidence of any trauma on his body, according to the state attorney’s report issued Friday.

However, a never-released preliminary report written the day of the autopsy refers to “visible trauma … throughout the decedent’s body.”

A nurse told the Herald early on that Rainey’s body temperature that night was so high it could not be measured on a thermometer.

One fact is undisputed: Rainey’s skin was peeling off his body when he was pulled out of the shower.

Since 2014, police detectives spoke with 26 inmates who were in the mental ward, called the transitional care unit (TCU) at the time of Rainey’s death. At least six inmates said that the shower had been used to punish inmates who misbehaved. And three reported that they themselves had been subjected to punishing showers. Some say the shower was used by inmates without any problem. Fourteen inmates were either too mentally ill to say anything credible—or they refused to talk to police altogether.

Lew also discounted what the prisoners said because the prison nurses police interviewed claimed they had never treated — nor heard about — any inmates who had burns as a result of the shower.

But Krzykowski and others medical workers at the prison have told the Herald that they were pressured to keep quiet by both their employer, a private contractor, and by corrections officers who threatened to leave them unprotected when dealing with unstable inmates.

David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who reviewed the report for the Herald, said it’s clear that the evidence did not meet the legal standard required to charge any of the officers with a crime.

“If you want to buy the government-conspiracy theory that the state attorney never charges corrections officers because they are part of the conspiracy, you are going to say they twisted the facts to support their theory,” he said.

“But if you look at it objectively, I don’t disagree with the results that were released. The only person that says that Rainey was burned and scalded was one inmate — and when you compare that to the rest of the evidence, it’s not consistent.”

That inmate, Harold Hempstead, was an orderly in the mental ward when Rainey died. It was Hempstead who first raised concerns about the episode, writing letters and filing complaints with police, the medical examiner and the state attorney about Rainey’s death as well as other alleged abuses inside the TCU.

He and other inmates and mental health staff told the Herald that state prison guards used forms of torture, including dousing prisoners with buckets of chemicals, over-medicating them, forcing them to fight each other and starving them. A group of officers at the prison that served inmates empty food trays, known as “air trays.” was known as the “diet squad’’ and they often preyed on inmates who were too ill to coherently report what had happened, prisoners said.

Around the time of Rainey’s death, another inmate hanged himself from an air conditioning vent, leaving a note sewn into his shorts detailing a litany of alleged abuses against inmates in the mental health unit.

“I’m in a mental health facility … I’m supposed to be getting help for my depression, suicidal tendencies and I was sexually assaulted,” wrote Richard Mair, 40.

The Department of Corrections never investigated Mair’s complaints, and the state attorney’s investigation in the Rainey case was limited to the facts surrounding Rainey’s death.

State investigators said they didn’t find Hempstead to be credible because his timeline was at odds with events reflected on a video surveillance camera. Also, Hempstead could not have seen some of the things he claimed to have seen because his window was covered with paper for part of that time. The document suggests he pressured other inmates to report things that didn’t happen, pointing out that many of the inmates’ statements were “inconsistent with the testimony of correctional personnel, all of the nurses, as well as the physical evidence.”

Hempstead was relocated to another state Friday, yet undisclosed, through a prisoner exchange, making him unavailable for comment. Prison officials said the timing was coincidental.

The report itself is inconsistent in some areas. On page 68, for example, the investigation says that only one inmate, Halden Casey, gave information about being placed in the shower with excessively hot water.

Earlier in the report, it mentions two other inmates: Lawrence Smith said he had been put in the hot shower about a month before Rainey died and that he had reported it to the nurses. Another inmate, Timothy Sliders, said he had been left in the hot shower for 30 minutes, but he managed to avoid injury by standing outside the spray. Another time, when he mentioned the water was comfortable, a guard went into the janitor’s closet and turned it up hotter, he told police detectives according to the report.

Rainey, who grew up in Tampa, was serving a two-year sentence for cocaine possession and had been at Dade for about four months at the time of his death. He reportedly had soiled himself in his cell and refused to clean up, so the officers led him to the second-floor shower, despite other showers being closer to his cell.

Lew, the medical examiner, noted that people with schizophrenia have an impaired ability to compensate for “heat stress” and that this, combined with the powerful medication he was taking, could have contributed to hyperthermia and created a predisposition to cardiac arrest.

She attributed his skin slippage to as an event that happened post-mortem consistent with “exposure to a warm, moist environment” and the effects of changes during the early stages of body decomposition.

Six inmates claimed that Rainey yelled that he wanted out of the shower. No member of the prison staff reported hearing anything.

Julie Jones, secretary for the Department of Corrections, said she was appreciative of the effort by police and the state attorney. The agency remains focused on implementing reforms in the way it cares for mentally ill inmates.

“We will continue to integrate services which ensure these inmates successfully re-enter society and lead crime-free lives upon release,’’ she said.

Following the Herald’s stories, Dade Correctional’s warden and assistant warden were forced out, and, later, then-Secretary Michael Crews stepped down amid political pressure. He was replaced by Jones. Other high-level prison officials have also left, including the prison agency’s inspector general, Jeffery Beasley — the system’s “watchdog” — who was accused by his own investigators of thwarting investigations.

Two of the guards identified as locking Rainey in the shower left their prison jobs, but were allowed to keep their law enforcement certifications. Roland Clarke is now a police officer in Miami Gardens and Cornelius Thompson works as a federal corrections officer.

Rainey’s family filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections in 2016. It is still pending.

The U.S. Department of Justice is still investigating possible civil rights abuses in Florida prisons.

March 17, 2017

After 4 1/2 Years of Official Silence, Decision Day on Florida Prison Shower Death

George's Note:

Today the state attorney's long awaited report will be released. Fernandez-Rundle will likely announce that she can't move forward with indictments or convene a grand jury. Her reasons undoubtedly will be along the lines of, there isn't enough evidence, eye witnesses are unreliable, and the medical examiner found Rainey's death to be accidental.

And so the cover-up is almost complete. Since Fernandez-Rundle won't prosecute, it's left to the Department of Justice headed by Jeff Sessions, the alleged racist and liar who presumably perjured himself before members of congress. Chances of Sessions moving forward - ZERO.

If by some miracle I'm wrong, the 4 1/2 years I've tried to get Rainey justice will have been worth it. We all know however, that we're living in an age where there is little accountability for crimes against the mentally ill behind bars.



MARCH 16, 2017 9:54 PM 

After 4 1/2 years of official silence, decision day on Florida prison shower death 



Darren Rainey


BY JULIE K. BROWN

In June 2012, Darren Rainey was forced into a shower by officers at Dade Correctional Institution and left there, under a blistering spray of scalding water, for nearly two hours. Rainey, who suffered from schizophrenia, screamed and begged to be let out of the small stall, until, finally, he collapsed and died, flecks of his skin floating in the water — and his body temperature so high that it couldn't be registered on a thermometer.

On Friday, nearly five years after his death, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle is expected to release her office's investigation into Rainey's death — and announce whether anyone will be held criminally responsible.

Milton Grimes, the attorney representing Rainey's family, said Fernández Rundle's office contacted him Thursday to alert him that the report would be released Friday afternoon. The fact that it is being released on a Friday afternoon — and on St. Patrick's Day, when many a work day is cut short — gives him scant hope that justice will be served.

Releasing bad news or documents on a Friday afternoon is typically known as a “Friday news dump,” an attempt to release a report at a time when it will avoid scrutiny by the public and the media.

"As you can imagine, his family has been waiting a very long time for justice," Grimes told the Miami Herald on Thursday evening. “They are very anxious about what the state attorney will say and hopeful that someone will be charged."

Fernández Rundle's spokesman, Ed Griffith, did not return emails or voice messages left by the Herald on Thursday evening. But sources had told the Herald two weeks ago that the report was finished and its release was imminent.

Dade Correctional Institution — located on the edge of the Everglades near Homestead — is a facility that houses approximately 1,500 male inmates. It is one of a handful of state prisons with transitional care units (TCUs) that house prisoners who suffer from mental illness.

RAINEY'S DEATH LED TO THE GROWTH OF A PRISON REFORM MOVEMENT BY HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS, AMONG THEM A LOCAL GROUP CALLED SPAN (STOP PRISON ABUSE NOW). ITS ACTIVISTS HAVE HELD PROTESTS AND PRESSURED FERNÁNDEZ RUNDLE TO BRING CHARGES AGAINST THE OFFICERS INVOLVED IN RAINEY'S DEATH.

Dade's corrections officers had specially rigged a shower in the TCU to be cranked up to scalding temperatures, or made frigidly cold, to punish inmates who were unruly, the Miami Herald found as part of a three-year investigation into statewide prison abuse that began in 2014. The controls were in a different room.

Dade CI's guards also used other forms of torture: dousing prisoners with buckets of chemicals, over-medicating them, forcing them to fight each other and starving them. A group of officers at the prison that served inmates empty food trays was known as the “diet squad.”

Rainey, 50, was serving a two-year sentence for drug possession and had been at Dade for about four months at the time of his death. On June 23, 2012, Rainey reportedly had soiled himself in his cell and refused to clean himself up, angering the guards, who forced him into the shower.

The officers claimed they checked on Rainey every half an hour and that he was fine. But witnesses said Rainey screamed and begged to be let out, promising them he would behave. The officers reportedly taunted him and laughed, saying “is it hot enough?''

Miami-Dade police were called to the prison to investigate that night, and issued a preliminary report. They classified the death as an “unexplained in-custody death,” and set it aside. It wasn't until the Herald began writing about the incident in May 2014 that detectives began looking into it in earnest.

Even then, Miami-Dade's medical examiner would not release the autopsy or the cause of death — not even to Rainey's family. Andre Chapman, Rainey's brother, said prison officials had pressured him into cremating Darren, and because the family had no money, he agreed.

Following the Herald's stories, Dade CI's warden and assistant warden were forced out, and later, the secretary for the department also stepped down amid political pressure. To this day, however, no one has been disciplined or charged, and several of the officers on duty that night were promoted after the incident.

The two guards identified in reports as locking Rainey in the shower left their prison jobs, but were allowed to keep their law enforcement certifications. One of them is now a police officer in Miami Gardens and the other works as a federal corrections officer.

Last year, some details of the autopsy were leaked, showing that the medical examiner had ruled Rainey's death “accidental” — the result of complications from schizophrenia, heart disease and “confinement” in a shower. This led to speculation that no charges would be filed in the case.

THE TWO GUARDS IDENTIFIED IN REPORTS AS LOCKING RAINEY IN THE SHOWER LEFT THEIR PRISON JOBS, BUT WERE ALLOWED TO KEEP THEIR LAW ENFORCEMENT CERTIFICATIONS.

Rainey's family filed a civil lawsuit against the Florida Department of Corrections in 2016. In it, relatives said Rainey had been burned over 90 percent of his body and his skin was so hot to the touch that it was peeling.

His death led to the growth of a prison reform movement by human rights groups, among them a local group called SPAN (Stop Prison Abuse Now). Its activists have held protests and pressured Fernández Rundle to bring charges against the officers involved in Rainey's death.

“If indeed the report on Darren Rainey's brutal murder comes out on a Friday afternoon...SPAN views it as regrettable, because perhaps it's being done to detract from it so that people won't pay attention. We will, however, wait and comment on the report when it is released,” said Steve Wetstein, SPAN's spokesman.

While Rainey's death has led to some reforms in the treatment of those with mental illnesses in Florida prisons, the system remains dangerously understaffed and rife with violence, as evidenced by recent turmoil and riots at prisons throughout Florida.

Several groups, including Disability Rights Florida and the American Civil Liberties Union, had called on the U.S. attorney general last year to investigate after it appeared that local and state investigations weren't moving ahead. A federal probe into abuse in Florida prisons is pending.

March 4, 2017

Factors That Contribute to a High Rate of Recidivism - Part 2

George's Note:

This just in from a teacher for the Florida Department of Corrections. Clearly, the FDC has serious problems in rehabilitating inmates for reentry with, at a bare minimum, a high school diploma. Additionally, the Florida prison system offers few vocational classes leading to licensure or certification as an electrician, mechanic, or plumber for example. Floridians can not expect the FDC to reduce recidivism if the environment is not conducive to helping inmates to become better people - education being the most obvious.  


Mr. Mallinckrodt,

It was with great interest that I read the information about your book, "Getting Away with Murder." Since April 2015, I have been working as a teacher for Florida Department of Corrections. Despite having to overcome obstacles just to be allowed to go to school, I have been constantly impressed by the tenacity and desire some of my students have had to obtain their high school diplomas. I always encouraged my students to move forward and keep learning.

My supervisor and fellow teachers did not share my belief in the ability of the students and on Thursday, I was abruptly terminated from my job for bringing high school textbooks into the prison to be used in a classroom library since the prison library did not contain the material we needed. All of the books had been inspected by the officers and passed through metal detectors before entering the facility. 

The warden at my facility told me that all the inmates were "evil" and spent their days thinking about what crimes they could commit that day. I was truly shocked and asked him why there was even an education program in place if his was the prevailing view. Although I did not witness the abuse that you saw, I firmly hold the belief that Florida Department of Corrections is not interested in helping inmates achieve a better lifestyle after their release but rather fosters the hope that they will re-offend and return to prison. 

Thanks for your voice and the work that you do.

George's Note: This same teacher sent me a follow-up message:

Hi George,

Thanks for getting back to me about my post and also for forwarding these articles. You are right, some of the things I saw were awful, such as my students having to take breaks from their schoolwork to vomit because of the quality of food that they were served in the chow hall. Personally, I didn't witness any violence but one of my fellow teachers was fired shortly after he saw some officers take an inmate who was handcuffed on a stretcher out of camera range and then beaten about his head & body. Perhaps it was only a coincidence that this teacher was told to leave!

Please do feel free to blog my email. At the very least, I kept 20 students and two teaching assistants productive and engaged while they were incarcerated. I hope that they will be allowed to go back to school soon but also know how difficult it is to get qualified teachers to work in the prisons and also how slow the hiring process is with the state. Thanks for the work that you do.

XXXX XXXXXXXX

Factors That Contribute to a High Rate of Recidivism - Part 1

George's Note:

The following account is from a former inmate in the Florida Department of Corrections. Despite FDC Secretary Julie Jones's assertions that things are improving, on the front lines, much remains the same. The culture of brutality is alive and well. And people wonder why the recidivism rate is so high.


Mr. Mallinckrodt,

I recently learned of you via YouTube and felt the need to write. I was diagnosed bi-polar, among other things, when I was fourteen. I was also an inmate in Florida's Department of Corrections for six years - 2010 to 2016 - in various prisons (Tomoka, Martin, Moore Haven and both the "Reception" Centers). During this time I was beaten on an almost daily basis, tortured by officers, raped by other inmates (on behalf of officers), subjected to extortion and robbery, mental and emotional abuse and - on two occasions - officers attempted to use their position in order to have me killed.

While in CM (Close Management - solitary confinement in some cases - George) I also had to listen as officers conspired to have inmates starved and raped (this is in addition to using their knowledge of where working cameras were in order to position things so that they could not be seen urinating into our food when they brought our trays around) as well as murder inmates and then doctor things to make it appear to be a suicide.

One thing you might want to be especially aware of: While at Martin Correctional Facility I once made the error in judgement of telling officers I planned to report them to Prison inspectors. Big mistake, but the answer I got was...enlightening. I was told that most of the inspectors, former corrections officers, were either bought or involved in the corruption and sadism themselves. Those that were not - well, I was told that any inspector who didn't want to "play the game," and dug too deep, might just suffer an "accident" - well away from Prison grounds.

Thought you should know.

Sincerely and respectfully,

XXXXXX XXXXX

August 2, 2016

Follow-up to: A Mother Shares Her Story - Leon County Jail & Corizon sued for wrongful death of inmate with mental illness

George's Note:

Amy from Stop Prison Abuse Now sent me the breaking news story featured below. As I noted in the previous blog under that, Alvina Harris's daughter Shanike died while under the "care" of Corizon doctors and nurses. Corizon has over 600 malpractice lawsuits pending for horrific practices as profiled in The Palm Beach Post's award winning series that detailed gross medical negligence. Please check out a dozen articles by PBP's Pat Beal by clicking on her name. Corizon's malfeasance is not isolated to Florida, click here for nationwide abuses: Corizon Horror Stories


Tallahassee Democrat

 

LCSO, jail healthcare staff facing wrongful death suit

http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/185aea4d12f35b52f7321266f33d00b39af2be7a/c=461-114-1607-1260&r=1024x1024&r=26&c=26x26/local/-/media/Tallahassee/USATODAY/2014/05/15/1400195342000-Karl1-050714-GB-0.jpg Karl Etters, Democrat staff writer
5:38 p.m. EDT July 27, 2016

Shanike Miller was arrested in September 2013 after she was accused of stealing $300 worth of prescription drugs from a Tallahassee CVS Pharmacy.
Charged with grand petit theft, the 36-year-old spent the next few months at the Leon County Jail. On Dec. 28, 2013, Miller was dead of liver failure.
Miller wasn’t supposed to be given the mood stabilizer Tegretol while being held in jail, her family claims in a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, its medical provider, Corizon Health, and the jail’s lead doctor.
The Fort Lauderdale resident died from liver failure, the lawsuit says, which was related to a reaction to the drug.
After Miller was arrested and taken to the Leon County Jail, she was seen as per protocol by the facility’s doctor, Marcia Garcia.
A psychological evaluation, court records say, concluded Miller was “irritable, hyperverbal, closed … hearing voices, paranoid,” and was started on three drugs, including Tegretol.
The lawsuit, filed on July 6, claims the mood stabilizer should not be prescribed without completing blood-work and that Miller refused the medication several times.
In December 2013, Garcia noted Miller was showing signs of jaundice but kept her on the drug without completing a blood test, which the lawsuit says is standard medical procedure. Yellowing skin, a symptom of jaundice, is also listed as a problem with taking Tegretol, according to the Food and Drug Administration’s medication guide.
On Dec. 18, Miller was transferred to Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare with liver failure. A day later, she was taken to Shands Hospital in Gainesville and diagnosed with acute liver failure. Nine days later, she died.
The lawsuit, filed by Tallahassee attorney Douglas Lyons, contends that Corizon, LCSO and Garcia treated Miller negligently by failing to perform pre-medication blood tests. They also didn't stop giving her Tegretol when Miller showed signs of jaundice and delayed getting her to the hospital for two days.
The lawsuit further contends all the defendants knew Corizon was providing “minimally adequate medical care for inmates at the Leon County Jail.”
Corizon is a Tennessee-based company which has been a major contractor with the Florida Department of Corrections since 2013. Corizon ended its state contract early in May.
The attorney representing LCSO did not return a call for comment Wednesday.

July 31, 2016

After the Radio Show Today, A Distraught Mother Shares Her Story About the Death of Her Mentally Ill Daughter

George's Note:
After hearing me on syndicated columnist Bobby Rodrigo's radio show, I Take Liberty With My Coffee (LINK), Alvina S. Harris sent me this email that she gave me permission to blog. I've taken the liberty of editing it slightly.

Hi George,

On 12/13/13, my 36-year-old mentally ill daughter, Shanike Miller, was in jail in Leon County, Fl, for allegedly stealing from CVS. She was given the psych drug Tegretol, which caused acute liver failure that resulted in her death. Corizon Health gave her the medication. When my daughter was transferred to Shands Hospital, Corizon Health told doctors my daughter was a possible O.D. (overdose) inmate and that she took Tylenol which caused liver damage. I buried my daughter thinking she'd taken her own life; Corizon doctors would not talk to me about what happened to her.

Months later after I got autopsy report, that's when I found out about all the psych drugs they were giving my mentally ill daughter, who according to their nurse's notes, "was hearing voices" in her cell, but they deemed her stable enough to consent to drugs that could possibly cause death. I’ve asked the Department of Justice to investigate and so has Senator Bill Nelson. 2 ½ years later, I still have no answers or justice for my daughter. I was very very close to my daughter, I talked to her all the time, she was loved by many, many, many people. If something like this could happen to my daughter and get covered up, imagine what is happening to all the other homeless people or people who have no families looking out for them.

My daughter was mentally ill, she repeatedly came into contact with the police, we always bailed her out. I was afraid the police were going to hurt my daughter while arresting her because of her mental illness and her aggressiveness while she was manic, so I decided not to bail her out. I thought she’d be safe in jail until we could get her into a hospital. I never thought in a million years something like this could happen to my daughter—I thought I was keeping her safe. On December 6, 2013, a psychiatrist, Dr. Leland, evaluated my daughter and his report to the public defender was to have her hospitalized. The public defender said she never saw the report; 10 days later my daughter is medically injured by Corizon Health doctors and dies a week and half later.

Finally, my mentally ill daughter, Shanike Miller, was given the death sentence for stealing out of CVS by Leon County Jail and Corizon Healthand it was sanctioned by Governor Rick Scott because no one has been punished and there has been no justice for my daughter.

Alvina S. Harris

George's Note:
Here is a follow-up email from Alvina that provides more clarity into the no-win decisions parents often face in dealing with their mentally ill children. I tracked down this propaganda directly from Corizon's website:

 


Alvina - Yes you may (blog my email). I want my daughter’s story told, I want justice for my daughter. I’ve been in a deep depression since my daughter died and every day I feel so much guilt and shame—I let my daughter down.  Yes, she was 36, an adult and my only child, but I still felt very responsible for her. I still feel responsible for her even though she’s not here anymore. The last few conversations I had with my daughter while she was in jail were about her going into a hospital to get stabilized. She asked, "Mom, do you really think I need to go into a mental hospital?" I said, "Yes Nikkie, you do, trust me, I love you, you need help and I will be there making sure you’re OK."  

Thursday, December 13, 2013, I told my daughter I was coming to see her the following weekend. I was going to bail her out and get her other warrants lifted—she had a few due to stealing. One week later, Thursday, December 19, 2013, the Leon County Sheriff called me and told me my daughter was in the hospital. My husband and I rushed to Tallahassee from Ft. Lauderdale, then to Shands Hospital. My daughter never woke up and died a week and half later.  Even worse, I buried my daughter thinking she’d taken her own life, because Corizon Health said she may have taken an overdose of Tylenol, which was not the case—it was the psych drugs according to the medical examiner. I thought I was keeping my daughter safe and trying to help her, instead in some way, I feel like I contributed to her death by trying to show her “tough love” by not bailing her out until she consented and agreed to take her medication and to be hospitalized.

People want to dispute the “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” slogans. Well, “Mentally Ill Lives Matter;” no color or race is involved as mental illness does not discriminate.  Mentally ill people are the most vulnerable and most times can’t speak for themselves.

My mentally ill 36-year-old daughter was given a death sentence by Leon County Jail and Corizon Health and sanctioned by Governor Rick Scott. I’m going to keep saying that because it’s what I believe.

July 25, 2016

Update on Efforts in Florida and New York to get Darren Rainey Justice.

Greetings!

I've been a bit silent on emails and blogs lately and wanted to post an update about happenings in Florida and New York.

Florida
On June 23rd, the four year anniversary of Darren Rainey's scalding death, a group of concerned citizens and members of SPAN met for a protest rally in front of State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle's office. Despite the Miami heat and a bomb scare two blocks away at the courthouse, we had a good turnout and coverage from the press. Many thanks to those who attended, one as far away as
St. Petersburg, FL!


4 years after inmate's brutal death, no punishment | Miami Herald

Protesters Demand Answers & Action In Death Of Inmate Darren Rainey
Michele Gillen - Investigative Reporter - CBS4 Miami

On anniversary of inmate’s death, prison reform supporters rally | Miami Heraldhttp://www.miamiherald.com/news/state/article85515502.html

http://wiod.iheart.com/articles/wiodam-local-news-122821/rally-against-prison-abuse-at-state-14840820/ - WIOD erroneously reported that I founded SPAN - I'm only a member!

New York
Many know that my primary objective is to elevate Darren Rainey's story to the national level to expose not only what happens in Florida to the severely mentally ill, but to also begin a dialogue regarding the 20% of severely mentally ill in all prisons and jails in the U.S. Before I traveled to NY to make it happen, I was a guest on Cat Watters' radio show, ORGANIC NEWS, along with Pastor Kenneth Glascow:


When I got to New York, Cat became my de facto press agent and media specialist. She lined me up with numerous interview opportunities. If I could afford to, I'd hire her on the spot! I owe her a debt of gratitude for all she's done for me. 

Here's a sampling of appearances on Radio and TV while in NY:

Ralph Nader Radio Hour - my segment starts at the 33:00 minute mark.

David Feldman Show - According to Wikipedia, David is an Emmy award winning comedy writer, stand-up comedian and podcaster/radio host. He's written for The Academy Awards, The Emmys, Triumph The Insult Dog Comic and countless roasts on Comedy Central. Over the past few years he has written with and for Steve Martin, Martin Short, Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Robert Smigel and Bette Midler. He is a co-host on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour.

Chris Hedges - ON CONTACT - taped July 22nd, air date TBA in August. From Chris's Wiki bio: Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans. He has reported from more than fifty countries, and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, NPR, Dallas Morning News, and The New York Times, where he was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years (1990–2005).

In 2002 Hedges was part of a group of eight reporters at The New York Times awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the paper's coverage of global terrorism. He also received the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism in 2002. He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University, and the University of Toronto. He currently teaches prisoners at a maximum-security prison in New Jersey.

Future Appearances - Next week will find me on Harlem Radio with Ricky Jones who hosts Unlocked, a show focusing on prison issues airing Wednesday August 3rd at 4pm. http://whcr.org/artists/unlocked-with-ricky-jones/  Listen Live: http://whcr.org/whcrstream-m3u/

August 4th - Book presentation at Revolution Books - 437 Malcolm X Blvd, New York, NY 10037
 
Come out and support Revolution Books! I will autograph all copies of Getting Away With Murder - profits to go to the bookstore. 

March 16, 2016

WITH ONE IN EIGHT INMATES IN FLORIDA PRISONS BEING HELD IN SOLITARY, ACLU CALLS FOR PROBE - Miami New Times

George's Note: A big thanks goes out to the Times for running this story. Steven Wetstein of Amnesty International authored the letter with help from Howard Simon, Miami ACLU Director, and those concerned with the well-being of inmates in solitary confinement — especially the mentally ill. The letter is posted below the article.


Miami New Times


WITH ONE IN EIGHT INMATES IN FLORIDA PRISONS BEING HELD IN SOLITARY, ACLU CALLS FOR PROBE

By Kyle Munzenrieder

Friday, March 11, 2016

Twelve thousand people — about one in eight inmates — are being held in solitary confinement in Florida state prisons, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The organization, along with a coalition of civil rights organizations, faith leaders, and advocates for the mentally ill, is now calling on the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division to investigate the matter.

“Just as our country now realizes that we are incarcerating too many people, we must also recognize that we have too many people in solitary confinement,” Steven Wetstein of the Miami Chapter of Amnesty International USA said in a statement. “This causes needless suffering and leaves them less able to be responsible citizens when they leave prison. Public security, fiscal responsibility, and our common humanity will all be strengthened by using solitary confinement less.”

The group says that as of September 2015, Florida Department of Corrections prisons held 87,111 inmates, of which 12,002, or 13.8 percent, were being held in restrained housing units. An additional 12,477 inmates were being held in private prisons, of which 434 were being held in solitary.

Restrained housing is defined as solitary housing in which an inmate is held for 22 hours a day and remains there for at least 15 continuous days.

The data also states that black inmates are more likely to be held in solitary than white inmates.

The ethnic breakdown of male prisoners in the general population is 46 percent white, 49 percent black, and 4 percent Hispanic. In solitary confinement, that breakdown is 37 percent white, 59 percent black, and 5 percent Hispanic.

Though black women make up only 30 percent of the state's total female inmate population, they make up 50 percent of women being held in solitary.

Prisoners with serious mental illnesses are also much more likely to be sent to solitary. About one-fourth of such prisoners is currently in solitary.

These numbers are only for state prisoners and don't include prisoners being held in federal or municipal prisons and jails in Florida.

"We strongly urge the Department to investigate why one in eight Florida prisoners are being held in confinement," reads the groups' letter to Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division.

President Obama recently called for an end to solitary confinement in federal juvenile prisons, and several states use no form of solitary in their prisons.

The letter was signed by the following:

Randall Berg, Executive Director, Florida Justice Institute; Rev. Dr. Russell L. Meyer, Executive Director, Florida Council of Churches; Adora Obi Nweze, President, Florida State Conference of the NAACP; George Mallinckrodt, Stop Prison Abuse Now (SPAN); Marc Dubin, Esq., Director, ADA Expertise Consulting, LLC; Robin Cole, President, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Miami; Christopher Jones, Director Florida Institutional Legal Services; Amy McClellan, Board of Directors The Key Clubhouse of Miami; Sevell C. Brown III, National Director, National Christian League of Councils; and Paul Wright Director, Human Rights Defense Center, and editor, Prison Legal News.









A Letter From a Person Who Had a Good Experience with the Florida Department of Corrections

George's Note: I have redacted all identifying information to maintain confidentiality. The FDC does have people who care and give their best effort under trying circumstances. These people deserve to be acknowledged.

Hi George:

I listened to some of the show last night but I was tired and fell asleep. Sorry, lol. I wanted to let you know of the progress I've made regarding advocating for my cousin, XXXXXX at XXXXXX Correctional Institution. I've been writing my cousin but another inmate was responding for him so I was unsure of his psychiatric state and ability to reply on his own.

A few months ago you gave me contact info for Dean Aufderheide and to be honest, I did nothing with it because I was so sure I would get stonewalled and didn't want the disappointment. Well, last week on the 3rd, I called him to ask if he could help me. He was extremely receptive and even thanked me for caring enough to make the effort. I did drop your name as the person who referred me by the way :)

Dr. Aufderheide gave me the email of the Regional mental health person, Joanne Lee. Ms. Lee responded the same day saying she would follow up and have someone contact me from XXXXXX C.I. The very next day I received email from the prison psychiatric director, XXXXX XXXXXX. I called her this past Monday. Ms. XXXXXX had already obtained a release from my cousin and spoke very openly and thoroughly with me about him and his current mental status. She too thanked me for caring.

I asked her to find out if his counselor would talk to me as well. She called me the next day again to tell me the counselor would be willing to speak to me once it is O.K.'ed by my cousin. She also gave me the name of his classification officer whom I spoke with that day as well. And just like Aufderheide, she thanked me for caring.

I am very encouraged by the interactions I've had with the prison thus far. As I told Ms. XXXXXX my long term objective is to get him released since there's legislation now reconsidering the cases of inmates sentenced to life as children as my cousin was. Ms. XXXXXX said "we are very happy for those inmates" and the possibility of release. These types of responses from a prison official were very surprising to me, but much appreciated and encouraging.

Thanks for your help and direction George. I pray for your well-being and thank you for the work that you do,

XXXXXX

January 27, 2016

Human Rights Activist Faces Foreclosure in the 11th Circuit Court, Miami-Dade County, FL

RE: Civil Division Case No: 2015-024067 CA 01, West Court Condominium vs. George C. Mallinckrodt

Human Rights Activist Faces Foreclosure

When I became a human rights activist upon learning of the scalding death of Darren Rainey in the Florida state prison psychiatric unit where I once worked, I was unprepared for the personal and financial sacrifices that would confront me in the three and a half years that followed. In deciding that the humane treatment of the mentally ill would be my life's work, I passed the point of no return long ago.

Unfortunately, I've been unable to pay maintenance on my condominium with any regularity. I am some $3000 behind and am facing a court date on February 18th to start the foreclosure process. I am not asking for your pity. I am only asking for the understanding that I have no choice but to continue to make a difference in the lives of those suffering mental illness. As a psychotherapist, I can't imagine not doing this important work. For me, human rights is not a hobby—it's full-time 50 hours a week work. And that's a light week. 

If everyone who read this blog donated just $10, my campaign would be funded through the summer—$20 might sustain me to the end of the year considering my bare-to-the-bones cutbacks. I've provided an address where checks may be sent and a link to PayPal for those who prefer a credit card. Please share this blog with your friends.

I am desperate. I need your help to continue to be the voice for those who have no voice. I can't sit by while severely mentally ill men and women continue to be brutalized in our jails and prisons. Three days ago I was contacted by a woman whose brother had been murdered by correctional officers who made it look like a suicide. This is the third such suspicious death within the last 12 months that I've been personally informed of by grief stricken relatives. Hearing these and other accounts of brutality leave me no choice but to carry on.

For those interested, I've provided a framework below to explain more specifically what my human rights campaign is trying to accomplish.

Thank you for your generous support,

George Mallinckrodt

P. O. Box 398374                                 Link toPayPal
Miami Beach, FL
33239


Campaign Explanation

The United States is experiencing a mental health crisis of unprecedented magnitude. Ten times more severely mentally ill people are incarcerated than are in state psychiatric hospitals. Forty percent of all individuals suffering severe mental health issues will have spent time in lockup. Those suffering severe mental illness are three times more likely to end up in prison than in a mental health treatment facility. The mentally ill are leaving our prisons and jails significantly worse off than when they entered. If they make it out!

The lack of a strong national mental health policy has resulted in a de facto return to the Middle Ages. The severely mentally ill are being rounded up and thrown into prisons to be tormented, beaten, gassed, electrocuted, tortured, and killed. Closures of psychiatric and community mental health facilities beginning in the 1960s combined with no follow-up plan for the severely mentally ill resulted in a mass transition to prisons layered with institutional brutality. The mentally ill are subjected to conditions far inferior to the atrocious psychiatric wards of yesteryear.

My campaign will strive to end mass incarceration of the severely mentally ill by encouraging legislators to enact money saving legislation that will provide humane, meaningful mental health treatment.  The cost of incarcerating the mentally ill is roughly double that of accommodating them in residential treatment centers. Equally important, funding community mental health programs reduces our bloated prison population.

As a result of recent high profile coverage of police and prison brutality, the public has never been more receptive to hearing from those who have witnessed prison brutality firsthand. I intend to capitalize on this opportunity by educating citizens about the horrific treatment mentally ill inmates receive and the means to improve conditions of confinement. Every single day, the mentally ill suffer wholesale maltreatment and cruel and unusual punishment.

To cut the supply of the severely mentally ill into our prisons, I will encourage lawmakers to fund state and community mental health facilities in addition to enacting school based initiatives. Early treatment in children's lives increases the probability of successful outcomes. Matching at-risk youth with appropriate mental health treatment is problematic given very few school systems provide these essential safety nets. Every child helped is one who avoids a justice system that criminalizes mental illness.

Treating the mentally ill in prison is last ditch effort that will never compare favorably with community based treatment unless strong measures are taken to provide humane treatment alternatives within our prison systems. Navigating layers of prison complexity is difficult for anyone. For the severely mentally ill, prison can be a frightfully overwhelming experience. Many patients on my caseload suffered the withholding of food, taunting, tormenting, and beatings. Excessive and malicious violence by prison guards jeopardized treatment outcomes and sabotaged my work as a psychotherapist.

Despite attempts by the Florida Department of Corrections to improve conditions, meaningful mental health treatment is a shaky proposition at best given the entrenched culture of brutality. In order to provide safe and effective mental health services to those already in our prisons, a new approach is necessary. To facilitate humane mental health treatment, carefully tailored institutional interventions to transition the mentally ill into specially designed facilities must occur. Every man or woman who has a successful treatment outcome is one less likely to end up back in prison. 

Currently, there are too few jail diversion and drug court programs available to divert the mentally ill and those with co-occurring substance abuse issues into community mental health treatment facilities. Diversion programs in San Antonio, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale have reduced local jail populations to the point that jail closures have saved millions in tax dollars. Every major populated county in our country should have diversion programs based on successful models already in existence. These programs would provide yet another win-win outcome by saving tax dollars while reducing the mass incarceration of the mentally ill.

In summary, efforts to reduce the mass incarceration of the mentally ill in our prisons and jails require simultaneous action on a number of fronts. It is of paramount importance to focus on strengthening and providing treatment to the mentally ill before they come in contact with the criminal justice system. School and community based programs are essential to providing early intervention to children and young adults whose chance of positive outcomes is greatest. Jail diversion programs and drug courts can provide local community treatment alternatives to incarceration. Those already incarcerated would benefit from humane treatment programs that would increase the odds of recovery while reducing recidivism.


January 23, 2016

The Cover-up Continues - "Miami-Dade Prison Inmate Death in Shower Ruled Accidental, Sources Say"

George's Note: The completed autopsy is not available to the public and those who would have experts give a detailed opinion on the findings. I invite you to compare what has been reported with the preliminary autopsy I posted below the article. There are many glaring inconsistencies and unexplained contradictions. To come forward at this point, three and a half years after Darren Rainey was killed, with a ruling that his death was "accidental" is an affront to common sense. I have spoken to a number of former employees who witnessed firsthand the atrocities at Dade CI — they are appalled at this result. To be continued...
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/special-reports/florida-prisons/article56108525.html


Miami-Dade prison inmate death in shower ruled accidental, sources say
BY DAVID OVALLE   January 22, 2016

The death of Darren Rainey, a mentally ill inmate thrown into a steaming shower at Dade Correctional Institution in a case that sparked scrutiny on conditions inside Florida’s prison system, has been ruled accidental, the Herald has learned. 

The Miami-Dade Medical Examiner’s autopsy report, completed this week, concluded that Rainey died from complications of schizophrenia, heart disease and “confinement” in the shower back in June 2012, according to multiple law enforcement sources. 

Rainey, 50, did not suffer any burns anywhere on his body, and investigators could not conclude that the specially rigged shower was “excessively” hot the day he collapsed, the report said. Sources said the autopsy concluded that corrections officers had “no intent” to harm Rainey when they kept him in the shower for up to two hours. 

The medical examiner’s office — more than three years after Rainey’s death, an unusually long time for a death investigation to last — gave its final autopsy report to Miami-Dade police and prosecutors this week. The autopsy report itself remains private because investigations remain ongoing. 

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office must now decide whether to charge corrections officers with committing a crime, such as manslaughter, for locking Rainey in the shower and leaving him. A spokesman declined to comment. 

A federal criminal investigation is also continuing into Rainey’s death. 

RAINEY DIED AT DADE CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION SOUTH OF HOMESTEAD, A TROUBLED FACILITY WHERE INMATES HAVE REPORTED ABUSE AND INSPECTIONS HAVE FOUND UNSANITARY CONDITIONS. 

News of the “accidental” ruling drew immediate criticism from Miami’s American Civil Liberties Union.

“I have not reviewed the M.E. report, but it defies logic that the conclusion is that Darren Rainey’s death was accidental,” said Howard Simon, the ACLU’s executive director in Florida. “This is why we called for and still need an independent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.” 

Rainey’s death in the prison’s Transitional Care Unit, where inmates with mental illnesses are housed, was first reported by the Miami Herald. Those reports spurred a series of additional stories chronicling abuse of inmates in Florida prisons. For more than a year, the Herald has reviewed thousands of documents, conducted hundreds of interviews and visited prisons where prisoners have alleged they’ve seen or they themselves have been mentally, physically or sexually abused. 

The articles led to a shakeup in the leadership at the Florida Department of Corrections and a series of reforms, including budgeting for more officers. In the wake of the stories, the corrections department also entered into a landmark lawsuit settlement with a statewide disability advocacy group, pledging to improve conditions for inmates with mental illnesses. 

The corrections department said in a statement Friday that the agency will “remain committed” to working with investigators in the Rainey case. 

“The Florida Department of Corrections has not yet received a copy of the medical examiner’s report. Upon our receipt and evaluation of this report, the department will act swiftly in initiating all appropriate investigations and internal reviews,” spokesman McKinley Lewis said. 

Rainey died at Dade Correctional Institution south of Homestead, a troubled facility where inmates have reported abuse and inspections have found unsanitary conditions. Back in 2012, Rainey was serving a two-year prison term on a cocaine charge. 

The correction department’s Office of the Inspector General had suspended its investigation into Rainey’s death as the medical examiner’s office continued its work and prosecutors had yet to conclude their probe. 

Rainey suffered from heart disease and severe schizophrenia, for which he had been taking Haldol, a potent anti-psychotic drug that is known to elevate body temperatures and affect blood pressure and the heart, the autopsy reported, sources said. 

On the day he died, Rainey had defecated in his cell, a possible psychotic episode spurred by his mental disorder, the report said, according to sources. 

Prison officers took him to the small shower, which had been rigged to be controlled from an adjoining room, locked the door and left him there for up two hours as the stall filled with steam. Harold Hempstead, an inmate-orderly who was in a cell almost directly below the shower, told the Miami Herald he heard Rainey screaming for forgiveness. 

When staff finally took Rainey out of the stall, his skin seemingly melted off — a condition known as “slippage” caused by prolonged exposure to water, humidity and the “warm, moist” environment, the autopsy reported, sources said. 

He had no “thermal” injuries, or burns, on his body, the autopsy reported. 

As staff administered CPR to Rainey, a nurse clocked his internal temperature at 102 degrees, well above the normal temperature of 98.6, the autopsy report said. Nearly 12 hours after his death, Rainey’s body still had a temperature of about 94 degrees. 

Hempstead, a convicted burglar whose prison grievances and interviews with the Miami Herald first brought to light details of Rainey’s death, said he was shocked to learn that the death was ruled accidental. He told investigators, including those with the Justice Department, that the rigged shower was used on several other inmates with mental illnesses to terrorize them and keep them in line. The plumbing was dismantled after Rainey’s death. 

Other inmates told the Herald and investigators that they heard corrections officers taunt Rainey as he screamed to be let out, although Hempstead did not hear that. 

He said there were several showers closer to Rainey’s cell, and that the choice of this one — in which the controls were on the outside, inaccessible to Rainey — demonstrated the ill-intent of corrections officers. 

“Obviously his life was of no value because he was a black, poor, mentally disabled, Muslim prisoner,” said Hempstead in a prison interview by telephone. “The decision shows that black lives don’t matter.”