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Warden Suspended Over Inmate Death

The warden of a South Florida prison where an inmate was left in a scalding shower until he died has been suspended, state officials said.

Jerry Commings will be on paid administrative leave pending an investigation, Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Michael Crews told a news conference on Thursday. Further sanctions against Commings and others allegedly involved in the death were also possible, he added.

Crews made the announcement after a visit to Dade Correctional Institution where Darren Rainey, a mentally ill prisoner, was punished in 2012 with a shower so hot that his skin separated from his body.

Commings’s suspension is the first disciplinary action taken in this case by the Department of Corrections and comes after an investigation in May by The Miami Herald that found Rainey’s death was never properly investigated. The state corrections department has come under mounting pressure over the Rainey case and other prison deaths.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and other human rights groups recently called for a federal investigation into Rainey’s death as well as into the treatment of mentally ill inmates in Florida’s correctional facilities.

The groups allege that Rainey was locked in a closet-size shower stall at the facility in the city of Homestead as a form of punishment. He was left unattended for two hours under scalding hot water that measured as high as 180 degrees, they said. He was later found dead in the shower.

Crews acknowledged that his department needed to eliminate a few “bad seeds.”

“It is unfortunate that the acts of a few have tarnished the reputation of the Florida Department of Corrections,” he said.

Crews said that he would be touring the state’s prisons to spread his message of zero tolerance with abuse and corruption within the prisons system.

No action has been taken so far by the department against two correction officers being investigated by the Miami-Dade Police Department for their possible connection to the death. The names of the officers, who were still working in the facility, have not been disclosed.

Commings joined the department in 2003 and served as the warden at Dade Correctional Institution since 2011. He will be replaced by the Assistant Regional Director, Larry Mayo.

It was not the first time that Commings had been disciplined by the department. Earlier this year, he received a 40-hour suspension as a result of an audit that found deficiencies in the kitchen service.