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No Criminal Charges After Inmate Was Boiled to Death in Florida Prison

There was no question that Darren Rainey died in the showers of the Dade Correctional Institution in 2012. What was unanswered was whether the officers who locked Rainey for two hours in showers that could run as hot at 160 degrees were criminally liable for his death.

That answer came last month, when the state attorney for Miami-Dade County released an "In Custody Death Investigation Close-Out Memo" that attributed Rainey's death to schizophrenia, heart disease, and "confinement inside the shower room." Yet the state attorney declined to press criminal charges against the officers or the prison, saying instead that "the evidence does not show that Rainey's well-being was grossly disregarded by the correctional staff."

Deadly Disregard

The details of Rainey's death are as grisly as they are tragic. Rainey, schizophrenic and heavily medicated, was a resident of Dade's "Temporary Transitional Unit" which houses mentally disabled inmates. According to the report, corrections officers Roland Clarke and Cornelius Thompson took Rainey to the showers after he defecated in his cell and smearing the feces on himself and the cell.

Determining what exactly happened from there depends on whom you believe. Harold Hempstead, an inmate whose cell was below the shower, said he heard much of the incident, including Rainey screaming, "I can't take it anymore!" Another inmate said he heard guards sarcastically ask Rainey "Is it hot enough?" Rainey allegedly screamed, kicked the door, and begged to be let out, before he was found unresponsive almost two hours after he was locked in.

A later investigation found that the water temperature, which could only be controlled from a closet outside the showers, could reach as high as 160 degrees. Mark Joiner, another former inmate at Dade, said guards ordered him to clean pieces of skin that had peeled off Rainey's body from the shower floor. And nurses allegedly said Rainey's body "was covered in burns so severe that his skin came off at the touch," according to the New Yorker.

Charging Accounts

The Close-Out Memo, on the other hand gave the benefit of the doubt to Thompson and Clarke, who told detectives he made sure the water wasn't too hot. And although a preliminary medical report detailed "visible trauma ... throughout the decedents' body," the final autopsy, not completed until 2016 and yet to be released found no trauma and "no thermal injuries (burns) of any kind on his body."

In the end, the state attorney cited a lack of sufficient and consistent evidence in deciding not to criminally charge any of the officers involved in Rainey's death.

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