New details are emerging about the final moments of an inmate who died in segregation this month at Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ont.
CBC News has learned from a source with knowledge of the investigation into the death of Soleiman Faqiri that the 30-year-old was restrained with his hands behind his back, pepper-sprayed and had a spit hood placed over his head before his death at the so-called super-jail.
The mask-like device made of cloth is used to prevent an inmate from spitting saliva or blood.
The source also says that a number of correctional staff at the provincial facility have been suspended while the coroner, Kawartha Lakes Police Service and the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services investigate Faqiri’s death.
Faqiri, who his family says was a diagnosed schizophrenic, died in the facility on Dec. 15. He was arrested on Dec. 4.
His grief-stricken family has told CBC News they had no contact with Faqiri during his time in custody and that attempts to visit him were repeatedly denied by prison staff, who told them Faqiri was in lockdown.
Not until he was dead, his body covered in bruises and a large gash on his forehead, according to brother Yusuf Faqiri, would they see him again.
“We want to know why my brother died,” Yusuf said. “Why did Soleiman die? How did Soleiman die? That’s what we’re looking for.”
What role the measures taken by correctional staff may have played in Faqiri’s death is not known. The ministry has said a mandatory inquest will be launched if an autopsy reveals his death to be a result of anything other than natural causes.
Correctional ministry not commenting
On Dec. 4, Faqiri was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, one count of assault and another count of uttering threats of death and bodily harm. A mental health assessment was ordered for Faqiri on Dec. 12, but the Ministry of the Attorney General could not confirm if one was indeed conducted.
The charges against him were dropped on Dec. 19, four days after he died.
Asked specifically about the circumstances of Faqiri’s death and about the number of correctional staff suspended, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services declined to comment.
Kawartha Lakes police told CBC News an autopsy was completed on Dec. 16, but spokesperson Sgt. Terry Cox said the force is not in a position to comment on the results or on any job-related action with regard to employees of the facility.
In a release, Kawartha Lakes police said they attended the facility on Dec. 15 to tend to an “unresponsive male inmate.” A 30-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene.
Jail received most complaints
Faqiri’s death comes amid a systemic investigation by Ontario’s Ombudsman into how the province tracks and reviews segregation placements of inmates in correctional facilities, in light of “serious issues raised in an increasing number of complaints.”
In an email to CBC News, Ombudsman spokesperson Linda Williamson confirmed Central East Correctional Centre was “the most complained-about correctional facility in fiscal 2015-2016,” with 647 complaints spanning access to medical care, assault, lockdowns, the facilities themselves and other issues.
The so-called super-jail, which is equal in capacity to Central North Correctional Centre in Penetanguishene, Ont., has a capacity of 1,184 inmates, but received about 75 per cent more complaints. Central North received 370 complaints.
Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ont., can accommodate 1,550 inmates and received 267 complaints during the same period.
The ombudsman has received another 249 complaints regarding the Lindsay facility in the first six months of the current fiscal year, from April 1 to Sept. 30.
Training lacking, union says
“Segregation is an issue that our office has been monitoring and raised concerns about for several years,” Williamson wrote, adding that the Ombudsman called for better tracking of placements and for segregation to be abolished.
Speaking to CBC News on Friday, Monte Vieselmeyer, a representative for correctional workers with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said he could not comment on any suspensions because an investigation is underway.
He did not, however, hold back about the need for better training for correctional officers and managerial staff to deal with inmates with mental health issues.
“I have said repeatedly that we don’t have appropriate training,” Vieselmeyer said.
Kawartha Lakes police continue to interview witnesses and review video surveillance footage as part of their investigation.
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