Her Prison Job Terrified Her. What Was Scary Were the Guards

Employees kept quiet about abused inmates at Dade Correctional Institution
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2016 12:00 PM CDT
Her Prison Job Terrified Her. What Was Scary Were the Guards
A prisoner works on the lawn at the Dade Correctional Institution on Thursday, July 10, 2014, in Florida City, Fla.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Harriet Krzykowski felt abandoned—and terrified. A new counselor at Dade Correctional Institution's mental-health ward in 2010, the then-30-year-old heard about guards taunting and starving inmates, so she told her superior. That's when guards began abandoning Krzykowski in areas packed with potentially dangerous prisoners. "It scared the hell out of me," she tells the New Yorker. She realized how risky it was to complain about abuse at the Florida prison, where workers relied on guards for safety. So like most other counselors, Krzykowski said nothing when inmates were periodically tortured and beaten in the run-down, mildewed, cockroach-ridden facility. Then, in 2012, guards killed schizophrenic Darren Rainey by hosing him down with 180-degree water in a locked shower stall.

Krzykowski still kept quiet, but encouraged a prisoner to cope with Rainey's death by writing about it in his diary. The prisoner later filed complaints about the killing, which led to Miami Herald reports and a lawsuit that forced changes at Dade, like a new camera system and improved guard training—though one source says prisoners there still get poor treatment. Now the Justice Department is investigating whether there's a wider abuse pattern in Florida prisons. Caught in the middle are people like Krzykowski, who quit Dade in 2013 and lost most of her hair from stress. "There was one particular night I couldn’t sleep because I was crying too hard, thinking, oh, my God, all this time has gone by and I didn’t say anything," she says. "These guys are still suffering. They're still there. Why didn’t I do more?" (An ex-Riker's Island inmate says two years of solitary ruined her life.)

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