The shower is often a relaxing, solitary place where we can unwind and be at our most vulnerable. Alfred Hitchcock broke the illusion in 1960 with that famous scene in Psycho for a moment, but that anxiety has left the American consciousness. As of now, showers feel like the safest spot in the world.
Prison showers, however, are another story. Anyone who has paid any kind of attention to pop culture has an immediate mental picture of what goes down in a prison shower — shankings and situations regarding dropped soap, right?
For Darren Rainey, a 50-year-old at Dade Correctional Facility, his sudden death in a prison shower didn’t involve a stabbing or a violent sexual assault by a fellow inmate. What went on in that confined space may have more to do with how he was treated by prison guards.
Rainey was currently serving a two-year sentence on a cocaine charge when he died unexpectedly in a prison shower. After reportedly defecating himself and smearing the feces all over his prison cell, Rainey was taken to the shower on July 23, 2012, according to a memo written by Assistant State Attorneys Kathleen Hoague and Johnette Hardiman.
The shower was designed so that the prisoners had no control over the operation of the shower itself. It was run from an adjoining room by a corrections officer, apparently to prevent inmates from turning the water off if they refuse to take a shower. Rainey did just that.
Officer Roland Clarke had apparently told Rainey that he wouldn’t be able to return to his cell unless he showered. When Rainey finally complied and requested soap, he later changed his mind once more.
“No, I don’t want to do this,” he said, according to the memo. “Officer Clarke tried again to convince him to clean himself, but Rainey continued to stay out of the water and Officer Clarke then left Rainey to go back to his duties.”
It was about two hours later when Rainey was found by Officer Cornelius Thompson. Rainey’s body was covering the drain in about three inches of water, completely unresponsive. Lifesaving procedures were done until 10:07 pm when Rainey was pronounced deceased.
After his body was transported to the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s Office, it was reported by some medical personnel that Rainey’s body appeared to be burned.
However, after an examination by Dr. Emma Lew, she reported that there were “no thermal injuries of any kind on his body.” After awaiting lab results, Dr. Lew concluded that Rainey’s death was a combination of schizophrenia, heart disease, and confinement in the small shower space.
How can that be? Apparently, people who suffer from schizophrenia and suffer from a heart condition are likely to experience a sudden unexpected death. Upon looking at it, it appears that Rainey’s death, while unfortunate, was a circumstance of his health and the situation he was in. There was no foul play at hand here.
Though, one does have to wonder why it took two hours to wash an inmate. According to the report, Clarke had left Rainey between 7:38 pm and 7:41 pm. There was only one check on Rainey at 9:00 pm, still alive. It wasn’t until 9:30 pm that Rainey was discovered lying face up on the floor.
26 inmates of the mental health ward of the prison were interviewed by investigators. Six of those inmates had reported that the prison officers used the showers as a form of punishment, alternating between scalding and freezing temperatures in the shower.
Three reported that they had experienced this kind of discipline. Six said they hadn’t had any problems with the showers, and 14 were either not in a state of mind to give a credible testimony or refused to talk altogether.
The memo comes to the conclusion that “none of the correctional officers at Dade C.I. are criminally responsible for the death of inmate Rainey.” Charges will not be sought by the state. Their argument is that since Rainey was covered in feces at the time and since he refused to clean himself, his being placed in a shower for an extended period of time “is not conduct that is criminally reckless. There was no evidence of any intent to harm Rainey,” Hoague and Hardiman wrote.
Rainey’s death may be a true accident. But what about the other three inmates that reported being punished by shower? What about the rumor around the block that calls those showers “death showers”? Are these mentally ill inmates going to have to continue to be subjected to punishment by shower? Will they get a chance for justice? Or will we have to wait until another inmate dies?
Time will tell.