One month after the new warden took over at the troubled Dade Correctional Institution, Les Odom announced a series of upgrades designed to overhaul the state prison while addressing a number of “lapses” in proper management.
The list of upgrades, planned or already completed, range from replacing the air conditioning in the unit housing mentally ill inmates to better training the staff on how to keep track of the number of prisoners. The prison has had a problem conducting accurate counts and writing up incident reports when something goes wrong, according to a memo from Odom to his boss, Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews.
Odom said that audits of the prison south of Homestead found “lack of oversight and a culture of inattentiveness.”
The measures announced by Odom do not address the incident that has cast a harsh spotlight on the prison, spawned a criminal investigation and helped contribute to the firing of the last warden, Jerry Cummings. That was the 2012 death of Darren Rainey, a mentally ill inmate who was placed in a locked, closet-like, steaming hot shower until he collapsed and died some two hours later.
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Inmates told the Miami Herald that the 50-year-old Rainey, serving a short stint for cocaine possession, had angered corrections officers by defecating in his cell and refusing to clean up the mess. The shower was used to punish him, as it had used on other inmates, they said.
No correctional officer involved in Rainey’s death has been charged criminally.
The memo, released to the Herald on Friday, deals more with housekeeping matters. According to the statement, all security equipment will be replaced by September; and broken sinks, toilets, showers and lights are being repaired, as well as the prison’s ventilation system.
Additionally, the memo says, the prison has hired a new food services director. Cummings and his top staff were suspended for one week in the spring because an inspection found unsanitary conditions and a bug infestation in the food area.
The memo goes on to say that a lack of documentation suggests that, in some cases, mandatory training for staff might not have happened. Also, officers have not properly filed internal reviews after a complaint or an event, potentially “leaving critical incidents unreported.”
It is not clear whether the shower death of Rainey is one of the unreported “critical incidents.” The department did not make Crews or Odom available to address questions.
The investigation into the treatment of Rainey has lingered for two years, in part because police treated it like a routine in-custody death. Investigators did not interview inmate witnesses until after the Herald wrote an article this spring divulging what happened.
Shortly after Rainey died, the Department of Corrections suspended its administrative investigation into the death until the Miami-Dade Police Department finished its probe, which is ongoing.
In his memo, Odom requested that further audits be conducted by an external team.