Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Warden Denies Knowing Guards under Order to Stay out of Ashley Smith's Cell

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Warden Denies Knowing Guards under Order to Stay out of Ashley Smith's Cell

Article excerpt

Warden denies knowing about cell-entry orders

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TORONTO - The acting warden of the prison where a teenager choked herself to death retreated behind a wall of denials and memory lapses during her second day of inquest testimony Tuesday.

Under cross-examination, Cindy Berry was adamant she had no idea guards were under orders to stay out of Ashley Smith's segregation cell as long as the inmate was still breathing.

"I did not give any such direction," Berry said repeatedly.

Berry insisted she relied on her deputy Joanna Pauline to tell guards at Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., when to enter Smith's cell.

Pauline has testified the instructions to guards came from Berry, who described her deputy as incompetent and prone to speaking "gibberish" in a crisis.

Several middle managers have also testified to raising their concerns directly with Berry, and challenging her on the instructions as to when to intervene with Smith.

The rookie warden, who had arrived only a few months before Smith died, either denied such interactions or said she could not remember any of them.

No one appears to have taken any responsibility for Smith's death, a juror noted.

One guard has testified he told Berry he would rather face discipline for intervening too soon than for doing so too late.

"I did not hear his comments," Berry said.

Numerous incident reports sent to Berry describe in graphic detail how Smith, 19, of Moncton, N.B., would turn purple or show other clear signs of her self-strangulation.

Those reports also show guards' distress at being disciplined for rushing in to save the deeply disturbed Smith from choking herself with ligatures.

Berry essentially ignored the reports as she signed off on criticism of the officers for using inappropriate or excessive force.

"Reading them now, after six years with a different mindset, staff should have gone in," she said of one incident. …

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