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


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


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.


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.


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.


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,