Responsible for leaving a schizophrenic inmate in a scalding shower for two hours with temperatures potentially reaching as high as 180 degrees, four Florida prison guards continue to avoid criminal charges after Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Rundle recently issued a report absolving the guards of their actions against the deceased inmate. Although Rundle failed to test the temperature of the shower water during her investigation, a prison captain discovered the water was at least 160 degrees when testing the shower two days after the inmate’s death.
Suffering from schizophrenia and serving a two-year sentence for cocaine possession, 50-year-old Darren Rainey had reportedly defecated in his cell and refused orders to clean up the mess on June 23, 2012. Although several showers were located closer to Rainey’s cell, four guards led him to a shower on the second floor that allowed the officers to control the temperature of the water.
At least six inmates have asserted the guards routinely abused mentally ill prisoners by using the specially designed shower to either scald inmates or douse them in frigid cold water for hours. According to Rundle’s report, Rainey initially refused to stand under the shower but was informed by Officer Roland Clarke that he could not leave until he finished washing.
Although the officers claim they performed routine checks on Rainey every 30 minutes, inmates asserted that Rainey screamed and begged for help due to the scalding water while the guards either ignored his pleas or openly mocked him. Two hours after entering the shower, Rainey’s corpse was discovered lying on his back in 3 inches of water with his skin appearing red and peeling off his body.
Despite the fact that Dr. Emma Lew, Miami-Dade’s medical examiner, determined that Rainey did not suffer any trauma or burns according to Rundle’s report, several witnesses and a preliminary report written on the day of the autopsy found “visible trauma…throughout the decedent’s body.” While taking Rainey’s body temperature shortly after his death, a nurse reportedly discovered that his temperature was so high that it could not be measured by the thermometer.
Nearly five years after Rainey’s death, his autopsy report continues to be suppressed by government officials. On St. Patrick’s Day, Rundle released her report that determined Rainey’s death to be an accident, resulting from complications due to his mental illness, heart condition, and confinement within a shower.
According to Rundle’s report, no crime scene investigators were assigned to test the temperature of the prison shower. Instead, a prison captain, assigned as the environmental and safety officer, tested the shower two days after Rainey’s death and discovered the temperature was 160 degrees, well over the 120-degree state limit.
On the same day that Rundle released her report absolving the actions of officers Ronald Clarke, Cornelius Thompson, Edwina Williams, and Sgt. John Fan Fan for causing Rainey’s death, an inmate named Harold Hempstead, who allegedly witnessed Rainey’s death, was relocated to an undisclosed state prison. Although Rundle’s report determined that Hempstead was not a credible witness, Hempstead could not be located for comment.
Last year, Rainey’s family filed a civil rights lawsuit that remains pending against the Florida Department of Corrections. The Justice Department has launched multiple investigations into allegations of prisoner abuse within Florida’s prison system.