The New Yorker ran an exposé of Dade Correctional Institution’s Transitional Care Unit last month. Revolving around the story of former TCU counselor Harriet Krzykowski, the piece describes starvation, beating, sexual abuse, and a myriad of other prisoner abuse as routine and accepted in the Unit.
Dade Correctional Institute’s TCU was established originally to segregate mentally ill inmates so they could be in a relatively safe environment to receive appropriate counseling, ultimately returning to general population to serve out their sentence. However, according to Krzykowski, very little useful counseling occurred. She witnessed many inmates held in what amounted to solitary confinement, a variety of incarceration that can be very difficult for those with no pre-existing mental health hurdles.
Although she tried to bring new and potentially helpful counseling techniques in to help inmates, she said she felt that the corrections staff blocked her at every turn. Yoga, music therapy, even chalk for drawing on the pavement in the yard were all considered “security risks” by the staff.
Krzykowski goes on to describe the results of bringing up the unit’s problems with her superior – she was mysteriously left without protection from guards while in a session with a dozen inmates, and was again left alone with inmates in the prison yard. At one point she was groped by a diagnosed psychotic inmate in the yard when she was again left alone without a prison guard.
The final straw for Krzykowski was when an inmate named Darren Rainey was allegedly scalded to death in a shower stall by prison staff. Despite the fact that Rainey suffered burns over ninety percent of his body and his skin fell off simply upon being touched, Krzykowski didn’t report the incident out of fear of further retaliation. Although she was promoted shortly after the incident, the stress of working at the TCU was so high that her hair began to fall out.
When the story broke in the Miami Herald, Krzykowski, who was working elsewhere at the time, descended back into depression. The warden was placed on administrative leave, a federal investigation was initiated, and several lawsuits from other prisoners abused in the unit began as a result of the Miami Herald story. However, when the author revisited the unit in late 2015, and despite new staff and a new coat of paint, a confidential source within the unit informed him that little had changed.