New findings from a comprehensive post-mortem of a man living with schizophrenia who died while in custody are bringing the lack of independent oversight of Ontario’s correctional system as well as the impacts of segregation on people with mental illness to the forefront.
On Aug. 10, Ontario’s chief forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Pollanen released a comprehensive post-mortem review in the 2016 death of Soleiman Faqiri, who was awaiting a medical transfer at the Central East Correctional Centre. Until now, Faqiri’s cause of death was considered “unascertained” as determined in the original post-mortem report in 2017.
Pollanen’s review found the actions of correctional officers caused Faqiri’s death, determining that extended restraint and blunt force injuries combined to cause a stress response and/or lack of oxygen which likely triggered a fatal cardiac arrhythmia.
With the new findings, the matter has now been referred to the Ontario Provincial Police for possible charges.
Faqiri’s cause of death was not officially determined for nearly five years in part due to the lack of dedicated and independent oversight of Ontario’s correctional system.
Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), Ontario Division supports the presence of an independent oversight body for Ontario’s correctional system, as recommended by Howard Sapers, Ontario’s independent advisor on corrections reform.
Further, it has been CMHA Ontario’s long-standing position that individuals with mental health issues should never be placed in segregation and that the use of segregation can create new mental health issues where none existed previously and worsen any existing conditions.
CMHA Ontario supports daily health care assessments for all individuals in segregation. The correctional personnel who perform these assessments should be trained to identify all symptoms associated with mental illnesses, addictions and withdrawal. When any symptoms are observed, the individual should be immediately removed from segregation.
Faqiri was awaiting a placement at a secure forensic mental health hospital when he died. CMHA Ontario recommends creating more specialized care units for inmates requiring complex support.
Additionally, mental health and addictions training should be provided for all corrections personnel, especially those working with individuals living with mental health and addictions issues.
Corrections personnel should also be provided with education and training on their own workplace mental health, and how to identify the mental health and addictions conditions that can arise as a result of operational stress. CMHA Ontario programs Mental Health Works and Resilient Minds offer these types of training.