MIAMI (CBSMiami) – State lawmakers and civil rights activists stepped up their demands that a federal probe be conducted into the scalding death of an inmate at a Florida prison in South Miami-Dade.
CBS4’s news partners the Miami Herald reported Monday night that emails show there was a coverup regarding the death of Darren Rainey—and it began immediately after his body was found in a puddle of water.
The messages also show the prison staff told conflicting stories about what had occurred.
“We ignore wrongdoing in our very back yard,” said State Sen. Dwight Bullard, a Miami-Dade Democrat at a Monday afternoon news conference. Bullard slammed Governor Rick Scott’s administration for failing to act strongly after revelations that inmate Darren Rainey was allegedly locked in a small shower stall by prison guards and scalded to death. It was punishment for the mentally ill Rainey, doing time for a drug conviction.
“His body was so scalded, that the skin literally separated from his body,” Bullard said.
The alleged circumstances of Rainey’s death were unknown to his family and the public for nearly two years, until an investigative series was published by CBS4’s news partner, The Miami Herald.
Herald writer Julie Brown quoted multiple sources who said Rainey was screaming for help as he died an agonizing death over a period of at least twenty minutes in the locked shower stall, being pelted with water as hot as 180 degrees.
“Death is final. You just can’t say ‘oops, we messed up,'” said State Rep. Cynthia Stafford at Monday’s news conference. “When people are incarcerated, there is a level of accountability that needs to be there so people don’t end up dying.
Earlier this month, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews visited DCI and said he has “appalled and outraged” at what reportedly happened to Rainey. He subsequently fired the warden and assistant warden.
Critics of the prison system and Governor Rick Scott’s administration say much more needs to be done, given that the Rainey case is not the only suspect prisoner death known to prison officials.
In a whistleblower lawsuit, state corrections investigators claim an inmate in franklin county was gassed to death by guards and the investigators were told to keep their mouths shut.
At the Dade facility, some of those allegedly involved in the scalding death are still on the job, the two believed to have been most directly responsible were allowed to resign, and no one has been charged.
During a stop in Boynton Beach Monday, Scott said he is dedicated to maintaining the “safety of inmates” and those who work in prisons.
“We have replaced the warden and the assistant warden,” Scott said. “The secretary of the Department of Corrections has gone down and told Miami-Dade police that they need to hurry up this investigation.”
Rights activists, though, don’t trust police who essentially did nothing to investigate Rainey’s death until the Herald’s exposé. The American Civil Liberties Union has written Attorney
General Eric Holder saying “it appears that no one will be held accountable for the death of Darren rainey unless an investigation is conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice.”
“Prison guards kill people. Public officials cover it up. And we know about it only because of a few courageous whistleblowers and hard-working journalists,” said the ACLU’s Howard Simon on Monday.
The Justice Department has not been shy about investigating alleged abuses. It condemned a spate of Miami police shootings, and called conditions in Miami-Dade County jails unconstitutional. It is possible that the prison deaths could lead to criminal charges.
The ACLU’s Simon said he has received no response from federal investigators, but is confident the Justice Department will step in.
“They have a division dedicated to investigating the abuses of people who are incarcerated,” Simon said.
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