Inmate's family becomes latest to sue over prison shower death

Darren Rainey died in a scalding hot shower as an inmate at Dade Correctional Institution.
Darren Rainey died in a scalding hot shower as an inmate at Dade Correctional Institution.
Published Nov. 7, 2014

Darren Rainey was burned over 90 percent of his body, and his temperature registered over 104 degrees after he was found dead in a scalding shower at Dade Correctional Institution in 2012, according to a federal civil rights lawsuit filed against the state Department of Corrections by Rainey's family.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, alleges that Rainey — diagnosed with severe schizophrenia — was tortured by corrections officers who used a "shower treatment'' against him and other mentally ill inmates at the prison. It also alleges that the Florida Department of Corrections and Corizon, the private company responsible for the prison's health care at the time of Rainey's death, not only knew that mentally ill inmates were being abused in the prison, but allowed staff to cover it up.

Corizon, which has a five-year, $1.2 billion contract with the state, has incurred the wrath of prison officials through an assortment of shortcomings, including its failure to fulfill its contractual requirements for treating the mentally ill. For instance, state documents show that the company, at various institutions, failed to conduct sex offender screenings, didn't evaluate prisoners before dispensing psychotropic drugs, ignored inmate-declared psychological emergencies and was derelict in monitoring inmates placed on "self-harm observational status."

Wednesday's lawsuit, brought by Rainey's brother, Andre Chapman, and four other family members, seeks unspecified damages. They are represented by the Florida Institutional Legal Services Project and Disability Rights Florida — the same groups that, in September, sued the Department of Corrections, alleging systemic abuse and discrimination — including brutality, deprivation of food, and physical and verbal harassment — by corrections officers against inmates with serious mental illness at the prison, located in Miami-Dade County, just south of Homestead.