The U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has begun a criminal investigation into the death of Darren Rainey, the 50-year-old inmate who was locked in a shower that had been converted into a scalding torture chamber at Dade Correctional Institution.
The FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida also are questioning witnesses in connection with alleged atrocities in the prison’s mental health ward, including a practice of starving inmates so severely that they would snap off sprinkler-heads, flooding their cells and violating fire codes, so they would be arrested and sent to the county jail, where they would be fed.
Rainey’s death nearly three years ago, along with subsequent stories about rampant inmate abuse as well as a record number of deaths in Florida’s prisons, has spawned demands for an overhaul of the Florida Department of Corrections. The agency’s inspector general, Jeffery Beasley, has been accused of trying to whitewash suspicious deaths, medical neglect cases and corruption. He himself is the subject of a state investigation after four of his subordinates stated under oath this year that he asked them to sideline cases that would give the agency “a black eye.’’
For more than a year, the Miami Herald has investigated claims, interviewed witnesses and reviewed hundreds of records from current and former inmates and staff at Dade Correctional, located on the edge of the Everglades south of Homestead. Alleged abuses included sexual assaults by officers against inmates, racially motivated beatings and the withholding of food from inmates in one wing of the mental health ward.