Prisoner Deaths in Florida Mental Health Units Investigated

George Lavender

An investigation is underway into the death last week of a prisoner in a mental health unit at a Florida prison. According to the Miami Herald, Damion Foster died in the unit at at Charlotte Correctional Institution on Thursday after an altercation with corrections officers. 

Foster died when corrections officers were attempting a cell extraction,’’ the source told the Miami Herald.

The DOC is prepared to take immediate action to ensure accountability, based on the outcome of the investigation and the medical examiner’s report,’’ agency spokeswoman Jessica Cary said.

Foster was suicidal, but it’s not known how or why he died, sources said.

Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement is investigating Foster’s death. Florida’s Department of Corrections is already facing criticisms for another death in its custody. Darren Rainey died June 23rd 2012 after being locked in a small shower.

I can’t take it no more, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again,’’ he screamed over and over, according to a grievance complaint from a fellow inmate, as Rainey was allegedly locked in a shower with the scalding water turned on full blast.

50-year-old mentally ill inmate at the Dade Correctional Institution, Rainey was pulled into the locked shower by prison guards as punishment after defecating in his cell and refusing to clean it up, said the fellow inmate, who worked as an orderly. He was left there unattended for more than an hour as the narrow chamber filled with steam and water.

When guards finally checked on prisoner 060954, he was on his back and dead. His skin was so burned that it had shriveled from his body, a condition referred to as slippage, according to a medical document involving the death. Continue reading…

Darren Rainey’s autopsy was carried out more than a year and a half ago, but the Medical Examiner has not yet ruled on the cause of death, according to the Miami Herald, because the police probe has been pending.” 

In April, eight corrections officers were suspended and one fired following the death at Charlotte Correctional of Matthew Walker, 45. According to Gulf Coast station NBC2, Walker was slapped by a female corrections officer while in his cell, and then other corrections officers got involved and Walker ended up dead.

The Raw Story reports that in September another Florida prisoner, Richard Mair, committed suicide but left behind a note which alleged prisoners with mental health issues had been subject to cruel acts and punishments. 

Life sucks and then you die, but just before I go, I’m going to expose everyone for who and what they are,’’ Mair wrote. I’m in a mental health facility…I’m supposed to be getting help for my depression, suicidal tendencies and I was sexually assaulted.’’

He said guards – identified by name – gambled on duty, sold cigarettes and marijuana, and forced prisoners to perform sex acts and threatened them if they filed complaints. Continue reading…

According to the Miami Herald:

The DOC has not yet provided the Herald with a response to its request as to whether the agency ever investigated the allegations in Mair’s suicide note. The note is not mentioned in the DOC inspector general’s report on his death. Continue reading..

As reported here at The Prison Complex, the investigations in Florida come as concerns about the treatment of prisoners with mental health issues in New York’s largest jail have lead to calls for reform there. 

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George Lavender is an award-winning radio and print journalist based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @GeorgeLavender.
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