Yet Another Inmate Died Mysteriously and Horrifically Behind Bars

Two years ago, Florida prisoner Darren Rainey died under mysterious circumstances — and people are still trying to figure out what happened through a haze of coverups, sluggish bureaucratic investigations and tight-lipped commentary from upper-level officials.

A death that was initially reported as a heart attack or a self-injury has finally been revealed to be the result of torture: Rainey was placed in a shower with the heat set to a scalding temperature and left there, screaming, until he was dead. The heat was so intense that his skin began separating, a phenomenon known as slippage. A fellow prisoner recalls being ordered to clean it up in the small hours of the morning, by which time prison officials had already started a cover up to conceal the facts behind Rainey’s death.

Rainey isn’t the first prisoner to die in the hands of the state, and he likely won’t be the last. Like many prisoners who have suffered at the hands of guards and prison officials, he was a mentally ill man of color, and this clearly played a key role in his death, as mentally ill prisoners from the same institution report that hot showers were among the tools used to punish and subdue inmates.

Last year, Christopher Lee Lopez, a prisoner with schizoaffective disorder, died while in shackles at a Colorado prison facility. Charles Jason Toll died in 2010 while being forcibly removed from his cell, and his family is still seeking answers. Under notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio, multiple jail deaths have occurred. Prisoners have died across the country as a result of physical abuse, denial of medical attention and refusals to provide consistent care for chronic medical conditions, making prison a dangerous place for those with medical issues.

At Dade Correctional Institution, the facility where Rainey died, a prisoner committed suicide in 2013, citing routine physical and sexual abuse by prison guards. On the night of Rainey’s death, multiple prisoners reported hearing screams and sobbing as Rainey succumbed to the heat and steam, while prison guards made comments about him “enjoying” his shower. Prisoners also reported seeing Rainey’s obviously burned and severely injured body being removed before prisoners were ordered to clean the shower, destroying evidence before the situation was reported and the scene secured.

On the night of his death, emails were already whirling between prison and state officials to cover it up — and it took two years before those emails were pushed into the public eye by the diligent journalists at the Miami Herald. They also found records pertaining to the death of mentally ill prisoner Randall Jordan-Apro at Franklin Correctional Institution: The man was thrown into a cell and gassed until he died, with portions of his skin turning yellow as a result of the strength of the gas and its sustained use.

The Department of Corrections has promised reforms to prevent future incidents and protect the health and safety of inmates, but it seems to be lagging behind the reality within the prison system.

Claiming that 99% of prison staff are “do[ing] the right thing,” Secretary Mike Crews seems to be missing the fact that violence against mentally ill prisoners and prisoners of color is routine in Florida prisoners. Reforms to the prison system will require an extensive rethinking of how to train and handle guards, and it’s critical that prisoners be provided with a mechanism for filing grievances and having them actually be heard.

This requires prioritizing the safety and welfare of prisoners, and acknowledging that no matter why they’re in prison, they deserve their basic humanity.

Photo credit: meesh.


Sandy G.
Sandy G3 years ago

Hard to believe we are in the 21st century. We're essentially still a species of barbarians. Bad enough this stuff still happens, worse that it's covered up by the organization, and worst that no action is ever taken against the sickos who perpetrate evil against other sentient beings, human or not. Until we instigate and uphold, to the fullest degree, laws against barbarism, we condone these actions. By condoning these actions, we show our youth this is ok. They grow up and repeat the cycle.

Will we ever evolve?

ERIKA S3 years ago


Teresa W.
Teresa W3 years ago


Charmaine C.
Charmaine C3 years ago

Shocking state of affairs.

BJ J3 years ago

The deaths of these inmates were barbaric and wrong & whoever is responsible should be fired & brought to justice. If these inmates had committed crimes involving abuse/torture/death to others, doubtful they gave any thought to their victims or victims' families. . . .

Kamia T.
Kamia T3 years ago

Unfortunately, in the hierarchy of police work, those serving as prison guards are considered, even by their "comrades" as the worst of the worst. It's a job you take when you can't get a police position anywhere, and often attracts the sadists of the world. So long as prison guards are barely paid above minimum wage; and so long as deaths like these don't result in HUGE negligence lawsuit pay-outs; we'll keep having problems.

Kathy G.
Kat Gonzalez3 years ago

Whatever happened to the concept of rehabilitation? Why is it so difficult to give every man a job in prison, if he wants one? Even the man who does not like to be in a group can do SOMETHING in his cell alone, if he chooses. I understand that people sent to prison have done something that was illegal. Why can't they be given something to do to better themselves and give back while they are in there? Sometimes a person is born in the worst of circumstances and that is what put them in prison. Sometimes it was very bad judgment. Whatever the reason, if they have something positive to do that can benefit themselves and society, everyone wins. GUARDS SHOULD HAVE BACKGROUND AND PSYCHOLOGICAL TESTS BEFORE EVEN BEING CONSIDERED BECOMING A PERSON IN CHARGE. THEY SHOULD PASS SOME KIND OF EMPATHY/RESPONSIBILITY PROFILE. EVERYONE IN PRISON IS A PERSON. THERE SHOULD BE NO MENTALLY ILL IN PRISON. THAT SHOULD BE A TOTALLY SEPARATE MENTAL ILLNESS PRISON AND TREATED APPROPRIATELY.

Charlie Rush
Charlene Rush3 years ago

Considering the actions of our police departments, as of late, who do you think could be at fault?

Betty Kelly
Betty Kelly3 years ago

Why are the guards that committed crimes; and the officials involved, not charged ?

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson3 years ago