MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Emails sent by Jim Cumming, the former Dade Correctional Institution, in the days after a mentally ill inmate’s scalded body was found in a puddle of water in a shower provide very few details about what actually happened.
Instead the emails, released Monday and obtained by CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald, detailed how Cumming, prison administrators and corrections officers give a somewhat conflicting account of Darren Rainey’s death two years ago. At one point, they even claim that Rainey caused himself to be scalded by turning up the water temperature.
On Monday, state lawmakers and civil rights activists stepped up their demands that a federal probe be conducted into Rainey’s scalding death.
“We ignore wrongdoing in our very back yard,” said State Sen. Dwight Bullard, a Miami-Dade Democrat at an afternoon news conference.
Bullard slammed Governor Rick Scott’s administration for failing to act strongly after revelations that 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.
On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott gave his first comment on Rainey’s death.
“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.”
Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Nancy Perez told the Miami Herald their probe into Rainey’s death was “nearing its final stages.”
Prison officials admit that Rainey was forced into the shower the night of June 23, 2012, and left in the small stall for almost two hours. While the guards who placed him there, Cornelius Thompson and Roland Clarke, claimed they checked on him “periodically,” according to the Miami Herald, other inmates said the guards turned up the temperature as far as they could and walked away as he screamed in pain. They reportedly did it, according to witnesses, because Rainey had defecated in his cell and smeared feces all over himself.
Neither Thompson and Clarke are currently with the department.
Thompson left to take a job with the federal prison system and Roland Clarke resigned July 3rd.
According to emails sent days and weeks after Rainey’s death, Cumming was called to the scene the night he died and that top officials with the Department of Corrections were briefed.
Interestingly, there were no emails from Cummings to any of his command staff which asked questions about what happened the night Rainey died nor were there any emails from Cumming to his bosses concerning the death, according to the Miami Herald.
In the emails, Cumming chastised staffers who talked about the grizzly incident.
“We do not know what the cause of death is for (inmate) Rainey,” wrote Cumming.
Cummings urged them to wait for the Medical Examiner’s autopsy report before they make any official statements.
Dena Tate, the prison’s senior health administrator, backed Cumming’s plan.
“I agree! Staff will be informed to watch the verbiage when reporting incidents without final reports and/or investigations.”
But there would be no real investigation for nearly two years after a Miami Herald expose. During the course of the investigation, critical evidence seemingly disappeared. For example, the Depart of Correction’s Inspector General’s report cites a malfunction in the facility’s surveillance system “causing damage to the disc and the video could not be viewed.”
There is no further mention of video in the report.
To date, Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Bruce Hyma has yet to release that autopsy report or told Rainey’s family how he died. The ME is apparently waiting for the police to finish their investigation.
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. Simon said he has received no response from federal investigators, but is confident the Justice Department will step in.
CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed to this report.