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
state prison psychiatric ward. Really? It's not surprising I take great exception to
this entire sentiment for a number of reasons. Florida
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...