Miami Herald: Allegations Of Abuse Of Mentally-Ill In Florida Prison

Former employees of Dade Correctional Institution in Homestead say mentally ill are being abused and mistreated.(Photo by Lonny Paul)

Former employees of Dade Correctional Institution in Homestead say mentally ill are being abused and mistreated. (Photo by Lonny Paul)

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

A new investigative report from The Miami Herald this week profiles a prison in Miami-Dade County where employees have been accused of abusing mentally-ill inmates for “sport.”

According to the Herald, three former employees of the psychiatric unit at Dade Correctional Institution have alleged that staff at the facility were tormenting and abusing mentally-ill inmates for years.  One of the former employees took their complaints to the U.S. Department of Justice last month.

The Herald reports:

In his complaint, George Mallinckrodt, a psychotherapist assigned to the unit from 2008 to 2011, related a series of episodes, including the death of inmate Darren Rainey. The 50-year-old was placed in a small, enclosed, scalding-hot shower by guards and left unattended for more than an hour. He collapsed and died amid the searing heat, suffering severe burns when he fell, face up, atop the drain.

His death, for which no one has been held accountable, was described in Sunday’s Miami Herald.

Mallinckrodt was no longer with the prison at the time of Rainey’s scalding on June 23, 2012, but says he was told of the incident by a former colleague who remained on staff.

Here is a description of his death published in the Herald a few days earlier – also via reporter Julie Brown:

The purported details of Darren Rainey’s last hour are difficult to read.

“I can’t take it no more, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again,’’ he screamed over and over, according to a grievance complaint from a fellow inmate, as Rainey was allegedly locked in a shower with the scalding water turned on full blast.

A 50-year-old mentally ill inmate at the Dade Correctional Institution, Rainey was pulled into the locked shower by prison guards as punishment after defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up, said the fellow inmate, who worked as an orderly. He was left there unattended for more than an hour as the narrow chamber filled with steam and water.

When guards finally checked on prisoner 060954, he was on his back and dead. His skin was so burned that it had shriveled from his body, a condition referred to as slippage, according to a medical document involving the death.

But nearly two years after Rainey’s death on June 23, 2012, the Miami-Dade medical examiner has yet to complete an autopsy and Miami-Dade police have not charged anyone. The Florida Department of Corrections halted its probe into the matter, saying it could be restarted if the autopsy and police investigation unearth new information.

This delay in justice is what prompted Mallinckrodt to contact the Herald in April, Brown wrote.

According to the Herald, interviews with former employees show the prison guards “made ‘sport’ of agitating the mentally ill inmates, hoping for an excuse to beat or otherwise punish them.”

One current corrections officer at the facility, who spoke to the Herald on condition of anonymity, said prisoners in the mental health unit who caused trouble were threatened by guards with the shower treatment.

In his letter, Mallinckrodt said that guards “taunted, tormented, abused, beat, and tortured chronically mentally ill inmates on a regular basis,” hoping to provoke a response so the inmates could then be punished. He described specific incidents of alleged abuse, including the beating of inmate Joseph Swilling, a longtime criminal who showed Mallinckrodt his injuries during an anger management session.

Swilling said guards handcuffed him behind his back and led him into a hallway out of range of video cameras, where they threw him on the floor and repeatedly kicked him.

A murderer who hung himself in the unit last September, Richard Mair, left a suicide note in his shorts accusing guards of sexually abusing inmates and forcing black and white inmates to fight each other for the entertainment of staff.

Mallinckrodt said he filed a variety of complaints with the prison and the Department of Corrections’ inspector general about the abusive treatment, but never received a response. He said he also took his concerns directly to Warden Jerry Cummings.

… The past and present employees described a litany of issues in the mental health unit at the prison, located south of Homestead at 19000 SW 377th St. They said prisoners were beaten or deprived of food at the whim of guards and that inmates would defecate in their cells in protest or break sprinklers in hopes of being charged and sent to the county jail.

Mallinckrodt worked at the prison as an employee of a contracted mental health services company called Corizon Health Inc. However, he was fired two months after he reported a beating at the facility. According to the Herald, his company ‘told him he was being let go because he took long lunches and too many breaks.”

Brown writes the Herald has requested copy of the audit by the American Correctional Association, but the state has not provided it. The Herald also asked the Florida Department of Corrections for the personnel files of three guards accused of wrongdoing. Those files have not been released.

The newspaper has also requested footage from the prisons cameras and other public records. However, according to the Herald, “the inspector general cited a ‘malfunction’ making it impossible to view what happened after corrections officer Roland Clarke placed Rainey in the shower.”

The paper was told emails regarding Rainey’s death could take about six months to turn over.