June 17, 2014

My Piece was published today by the Miami Herald in OTHER VIEWS - A culture that enables cover-ups

By George Mallinckrodt

June 17, 2014

Having worked as a counselor in the very same psychiatric unit where Darren Rainey was killed, I can personally attest to the cover-up mentality of the Florida Department of Corrections. Many inmates on my caseload filed months and months of grievances regarding abusive behavior by guards that were never addressed. In a beating incident I refused to stay silent about, guards employed a rather sinister strategy to pressure a staffer to back off.

In an eerie coincidence, on June 23, 2011, a year to the day before Rainey was killed, an inmate named Joseph Swilling was handcuffed behind his back and briskly escorted to a hallway to meet his fate. Out of sight from cameras, he was thrown to the concrete floor and kicked repeatedly by correctional officers. The beating would have continued unchecked if not for the timely intervention of my coworker who pounded on the window while yelling, "Stop! Stop! Stop!"

Out of fear of retaliation, this coworker wrote on the Incident Report that he/she did not see anything. As counselors, guards escorted us into sessions with violent inmates, some of whom were mentally unbalanced. Guards were required to monitor the session through large windows. Any counselor who incurred the wrath of COs would be left without security.

The strategy of the guards was to simply leave the counselor alone with the inmate.

One counselor I know of resigned believing her life was in danger. As a result, most counselors stayed silent even after witnessing multiple instances of abuse, torment, and beating.

Given the documented failures of the DOC on many levels, it is essential that an independent agency be established with a mandate to provide transparency. This agency would be charged with at least three major duties:

1.  Investigation of Incident Reports, Inmate Grievances, and any other documentation of abusive behavior of guards by onsite investigators. Immediately interview all witnesses.

2.  Collection and processing of all inmate grievances.

3.  Install, maintain, and monitor all cameras. Replace all outdated cameras and recording devices with High Definition or HD equipment.

Ideally, the agency would be given the power to make arrests when warranted. As it stands now, the DOC only fires guards who are caught on camera - even when they have badly beaten an inmate. Grievances are often hijacked by guards who in turn taunt the aggrieved inmate. In my tenure, the cameras were often broken and the recordings grainy to the point of being useless.
The Florida DOC, like many large organizations, cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. It is time they get pulled into the new millennium - dragged kicking and screaming if need be. After all, that is what the DOC understands.

George Mallinckrodt is a psychotherapist who worked in the psychiatric ward at Dade Correctional Institution for nearly three years.



  1. Awesome article George! With all the articles about prison abuse and inhumane treatment coming out in the press, one must live under a rock if they think those at the TOP are not aware of these incidents. BoP Director, Charles Samuels and all state BoP Directors should be fired on the spot when they are made aware of this crap, and choose to do nothing. These inmates are someone's family members and friends, and these 'someones' should also be crying out to DoJ and the BoP for answers and NOT stop until those who have committed these crimes have been prosecuted. I really hope more people read your articles and make a conscious decision to step up and do what is right.

  2. It is heartbroken to read how the inmates are treated. I think the guards need as much mental health counseling as the inmates do. Thanks for being a voice for those who remain silent.


  3. The incarcerated mentally ill population has been overlooked for too long. Let us hope that Mr. Mallinckrodt's powerful revelations bring about much overdue changes.

  4. Vena BlanchardJune 24, 2014

    Wow. What a brave person to speak out. There was a study (done at Stanford University, in the 1970s) that demonstrated how quickly the labels guard and prisoner distorted subjects sense of their own and others humanity. "Guards" quickly became abusive of "prisoners" even though everyone was actually just a subject in an experiment, and everyone knew it. The power and label seems to poison the mind and the morality. We've known this for decades, so why have we not found an antidote. Will better oversight in the form of cameras and agencies be enough to prevent abuses of prisoners? Abuses if power?


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George Mallinckrodt