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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — When inmate Darren Rainey died an excruciating death in a scalding hot shower at the Dade Correctional Institution, allegedly being punished by guards, Jerry Cummings was the warden. Cummings, in his first on-camera interview, told CBS4’s Gary Nelson he was made the scapegoat after Rainey’s death was revealed this year in an expose by The Miami Herald.
“I am the fall guy,” Cummings said. “There was too much heat that was put on the secretary’s office and the governor’s office and when you serve at the pleasure of, and I serve at the pleasure of, I’m out of the equation. Somebody has to be the fall guy.”
Cummings was forced out by Secretary of Corrections Mike Crews.
Cummings said he was at home when Rainey died and wasn’t called to the prison until after the inmate’s body had been removed from the shower and taken to the clinic. When he arrived the body was draped in a sheet. Cummings said he was given a very short version of what happened.
“The inmate was found lying on the floor. Dead,” Cummings recalls being told.
Cummings said none of the written reports he received said anything about Rainey screaming for help, or being left in the scalding shower for more than two hours, his skin falling off. Tallahassee – the DOC’s inspector general’s office – closed the case. It was two years later, after the Herald’s investigation, that a criminal probe was opened. To this day, Cummings said, no one from any law enforcement agency has questioned him about Rainey’s death.
Cummings said DCI is a prison understaffed, with poorly trained guards, and that Rainey’s abuse was not an isolated case. He said he disciplined several guards for abusive behavior in his three years at the prison, but believes there was more that he was not aware of.
The former warden said he knew there were guards being bribed for favors and selling contraband to inmates. He said there was gang-like behavior that was difficult to expose.
“If you have officers who are actually in that corrupt circle with the inmates, there’s only a limited amount of information that you’re going to get,” Cummings said.
Cummings said problems at the prison were exacerbated by a lack of staff. He said he regularly would have thirty or forty vacant positions.
Cummings said the Halloween escape of lifer Roland “psycho” McCoy, should have been expected at a prison with crumbling facilities and guards not on their feet.
“I was not surprised, not surprised at all,” He said.
In July, shortly before showing Cummings the door, Secretary Crews told a news conference the Department of Corrections would become more forthcoming with information on inmate deaths and prison operations.
“We have nothing to hide,” Crews said at the time.
Cummings said the failure of DOC to notify police for at least five hours after McCoy’s escape illustrates that the promise of greater transparency is not being kept.
“The protocol is to immediately notify law enforcement of an inmate escape,” Cummings said. “There is no excuse for that kind of delay.”
As for the death of Darren Rainey, Cummings does not accept direct responsibility. He said he did the best he could in running a severely challenged prison.
He acknowledged, however, that the buck stops “at the corner office.” To that extent, Cummings said, “I feel that I failed.”
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