Prison reforms coming to Florida

State corrections head promises to do 'better job,' act with 'sense of urgency'

MIAMI - State corrections officials are promising to make prisons safer by improving transparency and beefing up investigations following criticism for the agency's handling of inmate deaths.

"We need to do a better job of anticipating problems and implementing a system-wide approach to correct issues before they become widespread," Department of Corrections Secretary Mike Crews said Wednesday. "We must act now with a sense of urgency."

Crews will give the Florida Department of Law Enforcement authority to investigate deaths at prison facilities that are the result of any non-natural causes. That includes 82 active cases.

He said the agency will create a website in the next 30 days to publicly release information on in-custody deaths.

The actions come two years too late for Darren Rainey, a mentally ill inmate who died while in custody at the Dade Correctional Institution after being locked in a shower stall under scalding hot water.

"I will tell you that I spoke with Miami-Dade (County prison officials) this morning and they indicated to me at that time that sometime later this week their intentions are to meet with both the state attorney and the medical examiner on this case," Crews said.

Rainey was supposed to serve two years in prison for a cocaine possession conviction.

Crews said 625 corrections officers have already been trained to handle mentally ill prisoners, and more will be. Mentally ill inmates about to be released will also get specialized help, and will be checked on once they're out.

The FDLE will take over all investigations involving the deaths of inmates from unnatural causes.

The agency has more than 100,000 inmates and supervises nearly 146,000 offenders in the community.

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