Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Deputy Warden Sheds No Light on Confusion about Entering Dying Inmate's Cell

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Deputy Warden Sheds No Light on Confusion about Entering Dying Inmate's Cell

Article excerpt

Deputy warden no help to Ashley Smith guards

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TORONTO - A senior manager at the prison in which a teenager choked herself to death while guards watched said Monday she was unaware of any orders to officers to stay out of the inmate's cell as long as she was still breathing.

Testifying at the Ashley Smith inquest, deputy warden Nicki Smith also said she could not remember being asked directly by frontline staff for direction on the issue.

"I have no memory of it at all," said Smith. "I have no idea what I would have responded."

Smith, the current deputy warden at Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., was acting in that position when Ashley Smith was first transferred to the prison in the spring of 2007.

The troubled inmate, who was prone to frequent self-harming, was 19 when she died in her segregation cell in October 2007.

The inquest has heard from guards that senior managers ordered them to stay out of Smith's cell as long as she was breathing, because they believed the teen was simply acting out.

The deputy warden shed little light on the issue.

She was adamant orders to guards never changed. She said she was unaware of any disciplinary action taken against them for going into the cell prematurely.

Internal reports show correctional officers went from acting immediately to remove ligatures from Smith's neck to waiting as she turned purple and she struggled for breath.

Smith said the reports did not indicate to her any difference in approach.

Nor was she alarmed that Smith was turning purple while guards watched and waited.

"I certainly didn't worry enough about it to look into it more thoroughly."

Smith insisted the call on when to intervene was up to frontline officers.

"The staff are highly trained, extremely professional," Smith told the inquest.

"I think staff would have known when to go in."

Smith frequently answered she could not remember specific incidents or institutional discussions about the inmate's aberrant behaviour. …

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