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Mentally Ill, Ashley Smith, Strangled Herself- As Guards Watched at Ontario Federal Prison

1/15/2013 12:00:00 AM


An inquest into the death of 19-year-old Ashley Smith began on January 14, 2013, over five years following her death. The inquest is expected to last for a year, with 100 witnesses testifying.  Smith's death is seen as an utter tragedy. Her family hopes that this public hearing will finally give them some answers.


On October 19, 2007, Smith died in her prison cell at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ontario. An autopsy revealed she died of asphyxiation from strangling.  Many people, including Smith's family, were extremely perplexed and angered, because she committed suicide while prison guards sat by and watched. They claimed they were told not to intervene.


Videos of Smith's treatment were released after a long court battle, alleged cover up, and reluctance by the Ontario correctional service.  One disturbing visual showed Smith being drugged against her will.  In another one, she is being transported by airplane from a Saskatoon prison, with two hoods covering her head and duct tape confining her hands to the armrest.


According to Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Smith was a troubled teenager who grew up in Moncton, New Brunswick.  During her tumultuous life, Smith was in and out of prison for various charges such as assaulting a postal worker with apples, disturbing the peace, sending threats, and violating probation.  Various reports stated she also misbehaved while in prison by assaulting the staff and did not want to comply with the rules.


At  just 15 years of age, a judge sentenced Smith to six years in prison for accumulated minor offenses.  The Coalition Against Institutionalized Child Abuse reported that her parents were relieved their daughter was going to prison. They may have hoped that incarceration would be a learning experience and her behavior would become that of a normal teenager.


The year that Smith died, she was transferred from one correctional institution to another and finally placed in the federal women’s prison in Kitchener.  Despite deteriorating mental health, she was confined to a segregated cell in deplorable conditions.  She was also on suicide watch and continuously monitored by surveillance cameras and guards. .





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