Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ongoing Isolation for 'Dejected' Ashley Smith Illegal, Inquest Hears

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ongoing Isolation for 'Dejected' Ashley Smith Illegal, Inquest Hears

Article excerpt

Isolation for 'dejected' teen called illegal

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TORONTO - A teenage inmate appeared desolate and in deep distress about a month before she choked herself to death in her segregation cell, a prisoners advocate testified on Tuesday.

Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, said she visited with Ashley Smith -- through her cell door -- on Sept. 24, 2007.

"I would describe her as looking pretty hopeless and dejected," Pate said. "I was concerned she might be at risk to herself."

At that point, Smith had been deprived of all cell effects -- with the exception of a security gown -- for three or four days, ostensibly because she had a piece of glass she was refusing to give up.

That meant no blanket, mattress or hygiene products.

Pate, who has extensive experience advocating for female prisoners, said she felt strongly the teen needed to get out of prison and to a hospital.

Smith, 19, reluctantly agreed to let Pate help draft a formal grievance. A guard had to witness the paperwork because the inmate was not allowed a pen to sign it.

The grievance went into a special box, which was not opened until two months after Smith, of Moncton, N.B., choked herself to death Oct. 19, 2007, while guards stood by and watched.

The inquest has heard how Smith, who was prone to self-injury and acting out, was shunted from segregation in one institution to isolation in another -- restarting the clock each time -- something Pate said was illegal.

Pate noted the Arbour inquiry recommended in 1996 an end to long-term isolation, and either judicial or external oversight for any continued segregation. Prison authorities have not heeded those recommendations, the inquest heard.

She also testified that a UN special rapporteur wants solitary confinement capped at 15 days for adults -- zero days for young people or the mentally ill -- or be considered torture. …

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