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Mentally Ill Inmate's Gruesome Death Spurs DOC To Implement Major Prison Reforms

Local 10 News Screenshot

The head of the Florida Department of Corrections says his agency is implementing several reforms to overhaul the system that houses more than 100,000 inmates. It’s the latest after the DOC came under fire for its handling of inmate deaths—particularly mentally ill prisoners.

The main impetus behind the changes is the death of mentally ill inmate Darren Rainey, and the department’s handling of the investigation into his death at Dade Correctional Institution.

“On June 23, 2012, Darren Rainey died in our correctional facility. There have since been numerous reports and allegations that officers at this institution placed him in a scalding hot shower as punishment, which resulted in his death. That’s why we are fully prepared to move forward with any disciplinary actions, including terminations of anyone involved in the June 2012 death,” said DOC Secretary Michael Crews, last month.

Since Crews' press conference in early July, both Dade’s Warden and the Assistant Warden have been fired and the two officers believed to be primarily involved in the incident also no longer work for the agency.

Now, Crews says he’s looking to implement some new reforms where he says his agency has “fallen short.”

“The case of Darren Rainey heightened our awareness of the challenges faced both by inmates with mental illnesses as well as the correctional officers that are tasked with supervising and overseeing these inmates while in our custody,” stated Crews, at a press conference Wednesday.

Starting with transparency, he talked about creating a website in the next month or so that shows in-custody deaths.

“We have nothing to hide…and independent investigations, I think, go a long way in moving that transparency forward,” added Crews.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will now be in charge of investigating any inmate deaths that are the result of unnatural causes. They will also be taking the lead in the investigation of 82 active cases. Other reforms include expanding specialized training for Correctional officers on how to handle mentally ill inmates as well as develop re-entry centers specifically for mentally ill inmates.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.