Human rights groups seek inquiry into Florida prison shower death

Wed Jun 25, 2014 5:52pm EDT

Related Topics

(Reuters) - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Wednesday called for a federal investigation into the 2012 scalding death of a mentally ill prisoner in Florida for which no one has been held accountable.

"These revelations that are coming out are not about incompetence. They're about guards killing people and public officials working feverishly to cover it up," Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida said.

Darren Rainey died June 23, 2012 in a locked closet-sized shower while being blasted by hot water as punishment at the state's Dade Correctional Institution in Miami, according to Simon's letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

After two hours, Rainey was found dead with his skin separated from his body, the letter stated. The water temperature was later measured at 180 degrees (82 Celsius).

"After two years, no one has been held accountable, and indeed 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," Simon wrote.

The ACLU was joined in the letter by the Florida Justice Institute, Amnesty International, the Florida Council of Churches, and the Florida Conference of NAACP Branches.

The spokesperson for Florida's Department of Corrections (DOC) did not return a call for comment.

An inmate who was ordered to clean up the shower after Rainey's body was removed described what he heard that night to the Miami Herald.

"He was crying 'please stop, please stop,'" Mark Joiner told the Herald. "And they just said 'Enjoy your shower,' and left."

Simon described Joiner as a whistleblower who wrote to several government officials about the death at great risk to himself.

The letter states that other inmates have filed grievances with the inspector general of the Florida DOC alleging scalding showers were being used to control inmates.

Simon said seven other inmate deaths are under investigation.

According to the ACLU's account, the Miami Dade Police conducted no interviews, did not speak to the prison nurse who examined Rainey's body and failed to preserve key evidence.

The Miami-Dade medical examiner has not released the autopsy, completed 18 months ago, citing an ongoing police investigation, according to the ACLU.

The DOC's inspector general closed its investigation four months after Rainey's death but re-opened it last week, Simon wrote.

(Editing by David Adams and Sandra Maler)

FILED UNDER: