May 31, 2014

It's Time to Put Corizon Health, Inc. Under a Magnifying Glass Regarding Inmate Abuse

Since Julie Brown broke the story about the scalding death of Darren Rainey, there has been an intense focus on the lackluster efforts of the Florida Department of Corrections, Miami Metro Homicide, and the Medical Examiner's office to resolve his case and bring his killers to justice. However, there is another player in this story that has received scant attention, namely, Corizon Health, Inc.

I sent six letters on Friday, May 30th to key Corizon executives regarding Corizon's lack of any guidelines, protocols, directives and/or trainings for the reporting of inmate abuse. I wrote the original letter over six months ago. I've been reluctant to send it earlier for fear of retribution given corporate America has a bad track record when it comes to the treatment of whistleblowers. A copy of the letter has been posted to my blog:

Corizon Health, Inc. had no guidelines for the reporting of inmate abuse. There was no training at all for mental health staff and no section in the employee manual mentioning inmate abuse. This from a company that declares itself the Industry Leader. A search for the term 'inmate abuse' on their website leads to a page titled, Specialized DOC and Jail Modules that has nothing to do with inmate abuse. Clicking a link on this page called, A Culture of Patient Safety - a grand euphemism if ever there was one - brings up a page that describes a partnership with the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF). I was incredulous when I read their self-serving rhetoric about how committed Corizon was to patient safety. Incensed might be more accurate. I wonder if the NPSF really knew how poorly Corizon treats inmates. Incidentally, a modicum of surfing the internet yielded tons of bad press nationwide regarding Corizon practices. Try Googling "Corizon Deaths" for starters.
Concerning the beating of inmate Joseph Swilling, I took the issue to a morning staff meeting and was met with silence. We all knew guards beat him, yet I was the only one who wanted to talk about it. What bothered me then, as it still does now, was that when I asked the Senior Psychologist/Site Manager/Supervisor if she had contacted Corizon about the beating, she answered, "Why should I do that?" She looked at me as if I asked the most ridiculous question in the world. In my mind, the unit was spiraling out of control and she was doing nothing to reign it in.

By that morning meeting, this supervisor had already heard the eye witness account of Swilling's beating from an unlicensed registered intern and the intern's insistence of writing on the Incident Report that she didn't see anything. The intern's concerns that guards would retaliate against her were well founded. The two of them signed off on the falsified report despite DOC rules to the contrary. Their signatures effectively put a wax seal on a cover up.   

I believe mental health and medical staff are in effect, the 'Checks and Balances' in the prison system. Clearly, the Florida DOC has a 'stick our heads in the sand' mentality paired with a 'cover up' strategy for inconvenient truths. We cannot trust the DOC to regulate themselves. Why should the burden of reporting inmate abuse fall on people like me and the inmate Harold Hempstead? Private contractors such as Corizon should have a 'Zero Tolerance' policy with regard to inmate abuse. If Secretaries of DOCs, Wardens, Administrators, and most importantly guards, knew that Corizon staffers were required to report abuse or get fired, I think inmate abuse would be greatly reduced.

Had reporting protocols been in place when I started working for Corizon, the beating of Swilling and the murder of Rainey may well have been avoided. We cannot count on spineless prison bureaucrats to do the right thing. The reporting of abuse must be taken out of their hands. It must be made mandatory.

Letter to Corizon:


George Mallinckrodt

DATE:  May 30, 2014


Woodrow A. Myers, Jr., M.D. - Chief Executive Officer
Carla Cesario, M.S.W. - Interim Chief Operating Officer
Calvin B. Johnson, M.D., M.P.H. - Chief Medical Officer
Becky Pinney - Chief Nursing Officer
Scotty Lee - Corporate Compliance
Dennis Wade - Senior Vice President, 
Chief Human Resources Officer

Corizon Health, Inc.
105 West Park Drive, Suite 200
Brentwood, TN 37027

Dear (Individually addressed to the above),

I am in the final edit phase of a nonfiction book I wrote about my experiences working in the Transitional Care Unit (TCU) at Dade Correctional Institution in Florida City, Florida. I want to accurately portray Corizon's position on inmate abuse. I have questions regarding the duty to report abuse of inmates as it applies to the Senior Psychologist/Site Manager/Supervisor. The time period spans Late 2009 to August 2011.

Hypothetically speaking, suppose an unlicensed registered intern (Mental Health Specialist) was an eye witness to the beating of an inmate by correctional officers. The intern described the incident to the Senior Psychologist/Site Manager/Supervisor (SP/SM/S). At this point, what was the duty of the SP/SM/S according to Corizon?

  • Did Corizon have a separate Employee Manual for the SP/SM/S during the period of 2009 to August 2011?
  • If there was a separate Employee Manual for the SP/SM/S, did the manual compel her to report abuse? What was the actual language, word for word, in the manual, if there was one? What form does the reporting of abuse take? Was the SP/SM/S required to keep her subordinates apprised of the situation?
  • If there was not a separate Employee Manual for the SP/SM/S, what training did she receive regarding the reporting of inmate abuse?
  • After describing the beating incident, the unlicensed registered intern told the SP/SM/S she/he was feeling intimidated by correctional officers. Fearing retaliation, the Mental Health Specialist decided to write on the Incident Report that she/he did not see anything. What should the SP/SM/S's response have been according to Corizon?
  • When concerns about other types of inmate abuse were raised by Mental Health Specialists, what should the SP/SM/S's response have been according to Corizon?
  • Does Corizon compel the SP/SM/S to liaison with the Warden and other appropriate correctional officers to establish guidelines and boundaries for the humane treatment of mentally ill inmates in a psych ward such as TCU?
  • Incidentally, the Corizon/Correctional Medical Services Employee Success Guide for that time period had no guidelines for Mental Health Specialists with regard to reporting inmate abuse. In addition, when Corizon replaced MHM in South Florida Region IV, there was no face to face training regarding the reporting of inmate abuse.

As I alluded to earlier, I want to correctly depict Corizon's position on the reporting of inmate abuse. In addition, recent news stories and television and radio interviews regarding the scalding death of Darren Rainey at a psychiatric ward at Dade Correctional Institution warrants a speedy response from Corizon. Corizon was the private contractor at the Transitional Care Unit where abuses by guards went unaddressed.

Thank you for your consideration,

George Mallinckrodt

May 25, 2014

It's been a very intense week!

When Julie Brown of the Miami Herald broke the story about Darren Rainey last Sunday the 18th, I contacted her immediately by email to schedule an interview. Since then I've interviewed with Michele Gillen, chief investigative reporter at WFOR-TV, Miami. As a result, I was contacted by Wilson Sayre of WLRN, Miami to interview as well. I had lunch at Books and Books on Lincoln Road with two attorneys from Disability Rights Florida who listened to my accounts of how disabled inmates were treated.

So far, Julie Brown has written three articles. An op-ed came out in the middle of the week and Fred Grimm added his voice in an op-ed in today's Herald. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the effort to make abuses known. People need to know what's happening to mentally ill inmates in prisons all over Florida.

I just got off the phone with Darren Rainey's brother, Andre. He was unaware of what was happening down here as he lives up north in Tampa. I filled him in on efforts to pressure Miami-Dade Homicide and the Medical Examiner's office to bring his brother's killers to justice. Andre and I had quite a long conversation and something he said about Darren made me ponder the effects of an abusive prison environment on the human psyche. He said Darren was well known around the neighborhood and was definitely not mentally ill. Andre takes exception to any portrayal of his brother as "crazy." For me this raises an important question, "Can the abuse and mistreatment of inmates in prison result in them becoming mentally unstable?" In Rainey's case this seems to hold true. 

An example from when I worked at Dade CI may shed some light here. One man on my caseload who weighed in at 140 pounds, who was one of my most successful cases, was slammed to the concrete floor by two guards who outweighed him by at least 250 pounds. He received stitches to close a gaping wound to his forehead. After this excessive use of force, he was never the same. He completely decompensated; he was worse than before I started working with him. In fact, this inmate actually assaulted me later. My work with many men on my caseload was consistently sabotaged by guards. My repeated disclosures to supervisors led nowhere. Just another day in prison…

May 21, 2014

Why Should Anybody Care About Darren Rainey?

I've been asked this question in various forms since I started writing Getting Away With Murder nearly two years ago. "They're just criminals - they deserve what they get," was another common response. The implication was that Darren Rainey deserved to be scalded to death in a locked shower in a Florida state prison psychiatric ward. Really? It's not surprising I take great exception to this entire sentiment for a number of reasons.

Number one would be the fact that Darren Rainey was chronically mentally ill. I have it on good authority he was smearing his own feces on his cell door window for starters. He was so psychologically compromised that he was never taken out of his cell for counseling. He was sentenced to two years for related drug charges. His torture and murder, in essence, meant that his two year sentence morphed into a death sentence. The justice system, which includes correctional officers, prosecutors, public defenders, judges, and psychologists to name a few, is most assuredly broken when it comes to the mentally ill. In the Middle Ages, the mentally ill were thrown into dungeons to be beaten, tortured, and killed. What's changed?

Secondly, a whole host of scenarios may arise whereby law abiding citizens find themselves swept up into the legal system. We've all heard the story of someone who has one too many drinks at an office party then proceeds to drive under the influence. Most make it home fine. But for the few who cause bodily harm or death, incarceration may be in their future. How should guards treat these otherwise productive members of society who made a horrible mistake? Beat, torture, and kill them?

Thirdly, what kind of society do we want to live in? This is a fundamental question whose answer has far ranging implications beyond the question of the treatment of mentally ill inmates. What does it say about us that we would tolerate this type of behavior?

Fourthly, approximately 80% of inmates will be returned to society. How many of these men have suffered at the hands of guards only to emerge from prison with an enormous chip on their shoulders. Guards who abuse inmates are making society less safe for all of us. There must be a hidden cost to consider. And how about the police who pull these guys over in a routine traffic stop… 

So, a few thoughts from me. Would love to hear from you...    

May 4, 2014

Watching the Detectives - Part 1

I called Miami-Dade Homicide to contact Will Sanchez, the detective's name I had been given by the FDLE representative. I was transferred to his voicemail. I left the first of a half dozen messages saying I had information in the Rainey slaying. I managed to speak to a clerk in Homicide who said the case had not been "classified" yet. In other words, the case was still pending.

Finally, Detective Sanchez called and we made an appointment to talk about TCU and Rainey specifically. I drove over to the Miami-Dade Police Department Headquarters located in Doral; a city on the western edge of Miami known for the Doral Open golf event. After clearing security, I was escorted to a conference room in the Homicide Division. Moments later, Detectives Sanchez and Akin entered. We shook hands and got down to business. I laid out the relevant details from the time I had filed Incident Reports to my firing to 'The Call' I received from Carmen (name changed - former coworker). Sanchez asked most of the questions, and in response to how TCU had declined so precipitously, I went even further back to the Samantha (name changed - former coworker who resigned in fear of her life) incident and Dr. Do-Nothing's lack of support.

I most assuredly left the detectives with a clear picture of how supervisors consistently ignored evidence of inmate abuse. I pointed out that Dr. Robles (name changed) did nothing to stem the increasing violence that led eventually to murder. I backtracked slightly, with regard to the term 'murder,' drawing attention to the fact that the detectives were the true experts as to what constituted murder. I punctuated my account with the exact dialogue from the 'Silence Meeting' (Chapter 32). Easy to do since there was so little of it!

The Silence Meeting was where I had tried to raise the issue of inmate abuse as it applied to Joseph Swilling who was beaten with a mental health staffer looking on. Nobody wanted to talk about it and I left frustrated with a final thought, "What's it going to take to change anything in here? Does somebody have to die first?"

We wrapped up and Sanchez escorted me down to the lobby. I left with a good impression of both detectives. Based on my sense of the Frank Valdez murder and the acquittal of his killers, I knew they and the justice system were in for a daunting journey to conviction. At least I could say I made an effort on Rainey's part to get him and his family some justice. A small part of me was pleased with this effort that was much further than I had gotten after I was fired. A very small part.