Ashley, dead now five years, did it literally in the various cells where the 19-year-old spooned out the remainder of her sad days, frequently wrapping a ligature around her neck, whatever came to hand: a strip of cloth, the torn edge of a blanket, string. Self-harm intended not to kill, her family believes, but simply to draw attention, the tactile touch of prison guards and nurses, such was the young woman’s desperate loneliness. But she died, at the Grand Valley Institution for Women, while attendants peered through the cell window and did nothing to intervene as Ashley turned blue, purple, the breath choked out of her. (via Ashley Smith inquest: Coroner calls Corrections’ bluff and presses on with showing video - thestar.com)
- The distressing episode was captured by prison surveillance cameras, as was much of the incessant trauma Ashley endured in custody, all the horrific restraints and pacifying injections administered without consent against a teenager, a deeply disturbed human being whose mental fortitude eroded, drip-drip-drip, as she was shunted from one institution to another — 17 transfers in the last 11 months of her pitiful life.
- From the truant act of throwing apples at a postman to incarceration without end, without any apparent hope for release, as the penal system tied Ashley up in knots, continually adding custody extensions to what was originally a mild sentence, for her numerous infractions behind bars. By acting up, the penalties pushed her further down into a vortex of misery.
- Those graphic videotapes of mental deterioration is what prison authorities don’t want the public to see, although some footage was played in coroner’s court two years ago, before that inquest was derailed by litigious motions, challenges, deferrals and the abrupt retirement of the presiding coroner. The Smith family wants the tapes shown.
- A fresh inquest launched in September but got waylaid again on a tactical maneuver orchestrated by three Ontario physicians seeking to limit the scope of the proceedings, arguing that the authority of the coroner, Dr. John Carlisle, does not extend beyond the province’s borders, thus he should not be able to summon evidence from psychiatrists who treated Smith in Quebec, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. All six practitioners, as has been pointed out by Julian Falconer — lawyer for Ashley’s family — are employed by the Correctional Service of Canada and are covered by the same malpractice insurer.
- The doctors want that issue thrashed out before the inquest can even begin to inch forward. But Correctional Services, through its lawyer, posed a motion within the motion to prevent these particular videotapes, which haven’t been seen publicly before, from being played as part of the doctors’ procedural hearing and not until — at least — a coroner’s jury has been empanelled, possibly never.
- Out of all the lawyers in the room — about a dozen representing stakeholders who’ve received standing at the inquest, from media outlets to the Canadian Civil Liberties Union — only the Corrections guy was fixated on quashing the tapes.
What I would have liked to hear is whether Ashley’s case is unique or this happens to many others. My feeling is that this “escalation of sentencing” happens to many others, young men in majority, but we only care when a young woman is involved (and even then the lawyers and malpractice insurance companies might manage to bury it).