Thank you for the Feb. 7 editorial, Is Rainey now the victim of a cover-up? Of course, it is right: It defies logic that inmate Darren Rainey’s death was accidental, as the leaked autopsy by the Miami-Dade medical examiner reportedly concluded.
One would have to believe that someone could accidentally lock himself in a shower isolated from video cameras, accidentally turn up the water temperature to 180 degrees and accidentally boil himself to death — all the while screaming for help.
This is why the ACLU of Florida and others made the request for an independent investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice — which is now clearly needed.
But beyond the circumstances of Rainey’s death and whether anyone will ever be held accountable, the question has to be asked: Why was he (and many others like him) in prison in the first place?
Rainey was serving a two-year sentence for possession of cocaine. He also suffered from a mental illness, diagnosed as schizophrenia. This is not what prisons should be used for.
Between state and privatized prisons, Florida now incarcerates about 100,000 people, the third-largest prison population in the country. Aside from the failure to hold anyone in the Department of Corrections accountable for the brutal treatment of inmates, Rainey’s case also highlights that we are spending tax dollars warehousing people in prison instead of investing in the mental-health services and drug treatment that they obviously need.
Texas, Georgia and Mississippi have begun reforming their criminal-justice and sentencing systems to stop using prisons to cage people like Rainey. What will it take to move Florida lawmakers?
Yes, Rainey should not have been locked in a scalding prison shower and boiled to death — but he should not have even been in prison in the first place.
Howard L. Simon, executive director, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Miami