Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews announced major changes to the agency’s handling of mentally ill inmates across the state.
Among the changes are: expanded training for officers to deal with emergencies; specific centers where inmates can get specialized counseling for life after incarceration; and a pilot program with the Department of Children and Families to bring in their expertise as well.
“We must act now, with a sense of urgency,” Crews said. “Over the last several weeks and months, we have seen stories and reports where we have fallen short in specific instances with regards to leadership, safety, security, training and services for our mentally ill inmates.”
Crews continued, “We are working diligently to fix the problems we have already identified. As we identify new issues, we will work diligently to fix those as well.”
One of the issues that prompted the changes to the department was the death of developmentally disabled inmate Darren Rainey at a south Dade prison. Rainey, according to the Miami Herald, was allegedly locked in a “brutally hot shower” by guards and left in there until he collapsed and died.
The corrections department launched an investigation into what happened to Rainey, including the allegations of the scalding shower. The head of the prison where Rainey died was initially placed on administrative leave, but later fired. Two correctional officers involved with the Gaines case have resigned.
At least one community group has asked for the Department of Justice to investigate what happened to Rainey.
Crews said the allegations from the system have spurred him to travel from jail to jail to meet with inmates across the state.
“Our department should be held to the highest standard and I have zero tolerance for anything less,” Crews said Wednesday.
Some of the training that Crews announced has already started with more than 600 officers already going through it.