After 4 1/2 years of official silence, decision day on Florida prison shower death

In June 2012, Darren Rainey was forced into a shower by officers at Dade Correctional Institution and left there, under a blistering spray of scalding water, for nearly two hours. Rainey, who suffered from schizophrenia, screamed and begged to be let out of the small stall, until, finally, he collapsed and died, flecks of his skin floating in the water — and his body temperature so high that it couldn’t be registered on a thermometer.

On Friday, nearly five years after his death, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle is expected to release her office’s investigation into Rainey’s death — and announce whether anyone will be held criminally responsible for his death.

Milton Grimes, the attorney representing Rainey’s family, said Fernández Rundle’s office contacted him Thursday to alert him that the report would be released Friday afternoon. The fact that it is being released on a Friday afternoon — on a holiday — gives him scant hope that justice will be served.

Releasing bad news or documents on a Friday afternoon is typically known as a “Friday news dump,’’ or an attempt to release a report at a time when it will avoid scrutiny by the public and the media.

“As you can imagine, his family has been waiting a very long time for justice,’’ Grimes told the Miami Herald Thursday evening. “They are very anxious about what the state attorney will say and hopeful that someone will be charged.’’

Fernández Rundle’s spokesman, Ed Griffith, did not return emails or voice messages left by the Herald Thursday evening. But sources had told the Herald that the report was finished and its release was imminent.

The corrections officers at the prison, located on the edge of the Everglades near Homestead, had previously used the shower to abuse inmates with mental illnesses. They also doused them with buckets of chemicals, over-medicated them, forced them to fight each other and starved them, the Miami Herald found as part of a three-year investigation into abuse in the state prison system that began in 2014.

Rainey’s death led to a grassroots movement of prison reform, led by SPAN (Stop Prison Abuse Now), which has been pushing Fernández Rundle to bring charges against the officers involved in Rainey’s death.

“If indeed the report on Darren Rainey’s brutal murder comes out on a Friday afternoon — which happens to be a holiday, SPAN views it as regrettable, because perhaps it’s being done to detract attention from it so that people won’t pay attention. We will, however, wait and comment on the report when it is released.’’

While Rainey’s death has led to some reforms in the treatment of those with mental illnesses in Florida prisons, the prison system remains dangerously understaffed and rife with violence, as evidenced by recent turmoil and riots at prisons throughout Florida.

Rainey, 50, who had been serving a little more than a year on a drug charge, was herded into the shower by corrections officers who had been using the shower as punishment for unruly inmates in the mental health unit, also known as the transitional care unit (TCU), several inmates and health workers at the prison told the Herald.

Miami-Dade police, which had been called to the prison to investigate the night of Rainey’s death, did not question key witnesses until the Miami Herald began looking into the case in 2014.