No charges for Florida prison guards who allegedly locked mentally ill black man in scalding shower

Darren Rainey, a schizophrenic man serving time for cocaine possession, died in 2012.

Dade Correctional Institution CREDIT: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
Dade Correctional Institution CREDIT: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

In June of 2012, 50-year old Darren Rainey, a schizophrenic man serving time for cocaine possession, died in the Dade Correctional Institution. According to prison witnesses and civil rights groups, Rainey died after guards locked him in a shower for two hours with water at 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Nurses who examined Rainey said that he had burns over 90 percent of his body — and that his skin fell off at the touch.

According to an autopsy report released in January by the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner, Rainey died from “complications of schizophrenia, heart disease and ‘confinement’ in the shower.”

On Friday, more than four years after Rainey’s death, the office of Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle stated that they would not be seeking charges against the four correctional officers allegedly involved in Rainey’s death.

“The shower was itself neither dangerous nor unsafe,’’ the report read. “The evidence does not show that Rainey’s well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff.’’

According to the report, the “facts and evidence in this case do not meet the required elements for the filing of any criminal charge. Therefore, none of the correctional officers at Dade C.I. are criminally responsible for the death of inmate Rainey. Based upon the foregoing, we close the investigation without filing any criminal charges.”

At least six inmate witnesses said that correctional officers had rigged the shower so that they could control the temperature from the outside, and that they purposefully turned the water to temperatures that scalded Rainey. The inmate witnesses also claim that Rainey could be heard kicking the shower door and screaming “Please take me out! I can’t take it anymore!”

Prosecutors rejected those witness accounts, calling the testimony “unreliable” and “not credible.”

Milton Grimes, the attorney representing Rainey’s family, expressed extreme disappointment with the state’s decision.

“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 told the Miami Herald.

A Miami Herald investigation into the Dade Correctional Institution called it “the deadliest prison in Florida,” and chronicled a litany of abuses suffered by inmates at the hands of correctional officers. Around the same time as Rainey’s death, another mentally ill inmate hanged himself from an air conditioning vent, leaving behind a list of alleged abuses he suffered in the prison.

In 2016, 16 inmates died while in custody at the Dade Correctional Institution. Throughout the entire state, 356 inmates died in custody, according to numbers provided to the Miami Herald by the Florida Department of Corrections.