Darren Rainey died on June 23, 2012, at the Dade Correctional Institution after he was locked in a shower that was hot enough to boil tea for two hours by prison guards. They will face no charges.
Rainey was serving two years on a cocaine possession charge, according to The Washington Post. He was locked in the shower after defecating in his cell and smearing feces on the walls. The shower’s mechanism was controlled by guards outside, and Rainey was pressured to clean himself. After initially agreeing, he stopped because the water was too hot. The Miami-Herald reports that the shower was frequently used to punish prisoners by being turned up or down. The state limit on heat is 120 degrees, and the water Rainey was locked in with was reportedly somewhere between 160-180 degrees.
The corrections officers who locked Rainey in—John Fan Fan, Cornelius Thompson, Ronald Clarke, and Edwina Williams—ignored Rainey’s screams that he “couldn’t take it anymore” and laughed when he kicked the door. When the guards finally opened the shower, Rainey wasn’t breathing, he was on the floor in three inches of water, his skin had turned red and was flaking off. When he was removed, some of it allegedly peeled off his body. However, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced on Friday that there would be no criminal charges leveled against the guards.
The decision was based on the officers’ testimony and inconclusive evidence that Rainey’s death was caused by the shower and not some undiagnosed heart condition. Family members say they were pressured to cremate his body quickly, so any potential forensic analysis is gone.
But the Miami-Herald reports that there is a context of abuse that’s being ignored at the facility. A man named Harold Hempstead was an inmate and orderly in the mental ward when Rainey died, and was the first to raise concerns over Rainey’s death:
He [Hempstead] 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.
Milton Grimes, the attorney representing Rainey’s family told the Associated Press, “This is not justice for Darren, for his family, nor for the mentally ill who have been subject to similar abuse and mistreatment.” The family opened up a lawsuit in 2016 against the Florida Department of Corrections in federal court. The case is still pending.