Ashley Smith coroner's jury visit prison cell where teen died
5 women jurors toured Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont.
Jan 17, 2013 10:29 AM ET
Jan 17, 2013 8:38 PM ET
A coroner's jury in Toronto that is probing the case of teenager
Ashley Smith visited the small prison cell in the southern Ontario
facility where she died five years ago.
The five-woman panel on Thursday toured the federal Grand Valley
Institution for Women in Kitchener, where the 19-year-old choked to
death after tying a piece of cloth around her neck, to get a first-hand
look at where she spent her final days.
Jurors asked officials many questions about her cell — a
beige-painted cell measuring 1.5 metres wide by three metres long — in
the prison's segregation unit, such as how often it was cleaned, the
CBC's Ioanna Roumeliotis reported from Kitchener.
The CBC and The Canadian Press are accompanying the inquest panel on
their tour as pool media representatives, gathering information for all
The panel requested that guards shut the door, with them inside, to
get an idea of what it was like for Smith, Roumeliotis added.
Ashley Smith choked to death in her cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., on Oct. 19, 2007. (Marnie Luke/CBC)
"It's clear that these jurors are taking their task really
seriously," she said. "They really do want to get a real sense of what
Ashley Smith's time in prison was like."
Inside the cell was a single bed with a rolled-up pad that serves as a
mattress. There were a sink and a toilet behind a privacy screen,
Roumeliotis reported. The cell also had a single window, which was
equipped with a camera, she said.
Jurors also took time to peer through the knee-level food slot in the
cell door. Smith often lay at the foot of the door, and most of the
time, looking through the slot was the only way guards could get a good
look at her, Roumeliotis added. There was also a small viewing window at
about eye level.
Evidence about what guards could see of the cell interior is expected
to play a role given that Smith frequently covered the interior
surveillance camera and viewing window with toilet paper, The Canadian
Bits of toilet paper are still visible on some of the cameras.
After examining Smith's cell, the jurors and media toured the
maximum-security area, Roumeliotis reported, although the troubled teen
spent little time there.2nd inquest attemptSmith spent years being shuttled back and forth between the country's prisons and was in isolation much of the time.
She died on Oct. 19, 2007, after she tied a ligature around her neck,
as prison guards stood outside her cell and watched. They say they were
told not to intervene. Guards also videotaped her death, footage of
which will be shown to jurors at a later date.
The inquest began Monday, with coroner Dr. John Carlisle calling it the "best memorial to we could give to Ashley."
Smith, shown surrounded by guards at a prison at Joliette, Que. in July
2007, in this image made from video. Smith spent years being shuttled
back and forth among the country's prisons before her death in October
2007. (Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario/Canadian Press)"We
cannot now reverse the course of history as it unfolded, but we can
learn from the circumstances of this death, and try … to implement
measures to prevent future tragedies," he said Monday in his opening
This is the second inquest into Smith's death, after the first
attempt went off the rails amid acrimonious legal squabbling. That
inquest was scrapped after the first presiding coroner retired.
Carlisle has said he wants the impact of prolonged segregation on
Smith's mental health explored. Smith suffered from an anti-social
personality disorder with borderline traits, psychiatrist Paul Beaudry wrote in a 2010 report.Family hopes for changeSmith's
family says it hopes the inquest will answer lingering questions about
the teenager's death, and lead to tangible changes in the system.The
mother of Ashley Smith, Coralee Smith, says she hopes the second
inquest into her daughter's death will lead to changes to the
correctional system. (Tom Hanson/Canadian Press)"We
still have Ashleys, we still have Ashleys being treated in the same
tortuous, horrendous ways that Ashley was treated," her mother, Coralee
Smith, told CBC News.
"The money they're using, the money that's being spent keeping people
in prison, could be much better directed … at mental health services
way before they get to the courtroom, way before."
Smith's family, however, have not been able to attend inquest
hearings due to Coralee's frail health, their lawyer Julian Falconer
In: Regional News
Tags: canda, wtf, teen, prison, death, suicide, guards, watch, ashley, smith,
Location: Canada (load item map)
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