A former correctional officer testifying at a coroner's inquest into the death of a mentally ill man at an Ontario jail on Wednesday recalled getting an "incredibly bad sinking feeling" as soon as he saw the man in his segregation cell.
Clark Moss was a sergeant at the Central East Correctional Centre when Soleiman Faqiri was in custody in December 2016. He told the inquest he was first called up to the segregation unit where Faqiri was held on Dec. 11 because some of the officers were considering refusing to work there on health and safety grounds due to the overpowering smell coming from Faqiri's cell.
Moss said the smell hit him "like a slap in the face" as soon as he came onto the unit. The stench, and Faqiri's state of crisis, were affecting everyone on the unit, from correctional staff to other inmates, he said.
“It was upsetting to see the conditions and know that he’d been there for days,” Moss told jurors. He grew even more upset when he saw Faqiri, who had vomit and feces encrusted on his body and at one point rubbed feces in his eye, he said.
“I had an incredibly bad sinking feeling in my stomach … that this was not going to end well for Soleiman,” he told the inquest.
Moss testified he wanted to get both Faqiri and his cell cleaned up, and asked that the process be filmed so he could document the 30-year-old man's deteriorating mental health. The footage, which was taken outside of jail procedure, has been shown at the inquest.
In it, officers coax Faqiri from his cell, handcuff him and lead him down some stairs to a shower stall. Faqiri appears confused and agitated at times, and officers continue to encourage him. Eventually, Faqiri is able to wash himself inside the shower.
Moss told the inquest Faqiri spent three to four hours inside the shower and was "ecstatic" once he got under the water.
Efforts were made to move Faqiri to a different segregation unit Moss believed would be better suited to his needs, but no beds were available, he said. Eventually, officers brought him to a new, clean cell, he said.
As Faqiri was led from the shower to his new cell, "he didn’t act up, he followed direction, he was compliant,” Moss said.
The inquest has heard Faqiri was brought to the Lindsay, Ont., jail after he was arrested for allegedly stabbing a neighbour during a mental health crisis.
Jurors have heard Faqiri's mental health worsened in custody, but he never saw a psychiatrist despite growing concerns from correctional and medical staff.
He died in his cell on Dec. 15, 2016, after a violent struggle with correctional officers that erupted as he was being led from the shower to his cell.
Moss, who no longer works in the correctional system, told he inquest Wednesday he never saw Faqiri after Dec. 11 and learned about his death from a colleague. He said he was angry when he heard the news and voiced his concerns and frustrations to his superintendent that night.
The next day, he filled out a report on his interactions with Faqiri and handed in the video, he said. Moss said he was later reprimanded for filming Faqiri.
A forensic psychiatrist who watched the video testified earlier in the inquest that Faqiri appeared severely ill in the footage.
Dr. Gary Chaimowitz said Faqiri looked like he was "in the throes of a very severe psychotic episode, probably as unwell as you can get, as out of touch with reality (as you can get)."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2023.