>> Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Ashley Smith committed suicide in a Canadian prison while 7 corrections officers - and a camera - watched. For more than 30 minutes.
How could this happen?
I wanted to know - and so, after the story became public, I began to read everything I could get my hands on about it.
There are plenty of reports, if you're interested:
- Toronto Star coverage (see links to related stories)
- Out of Control (Fifth Estate)
- The Ashley Smith Report; Bernard Richard, NB Ombudsman & Child & Youth Advocate
- A Preventible Death; Howard Sapers, Corrections Investigator of Canada
- A Rush to Judgement; UCCO Report
One of the key themes that runs through all of the reports is that of surveillance. Ashley Smith hated to be strip searched (go figure - they thought maybe a 15 yo girl would welcome it?) ...and she wasn't terribly fond of being under constant surveillance either - she used to block the window of her (segregation) cell, and the camera lens, with anything she could.
These two behaviours caused no end of trouble. When she refused to comply with the surveillance measures that corrections officers deemed reasonable, power struggle frequently ensued - and she was often placed in restraints, pepper-sprayed and Tasered as a result (There are videos in the Fifth Estate episode; very disturbing. If we published videos of someone treating a dog the way Smith was treated the entire country would be in a an uproar.)
And to add insult to injury, when Ashley fought against these things, she quite often received additional charges - both institutional (which don't add time) and criminal (which do) - and THAT, my friends, is how a 15 yo child sentenced with just under 30 days of incarceration (for throwing crab apples at a mailman) ends up dying almost 4 years later, still in prison.
In Canada!!! Things like this are not supposed to happen in MY Canada!!! Seriously!
There is a lot more to the story..... and pretty much every part of it goes back to issues related to surveillance one way or another.
So - that is what I am going to explore over the next three years.
I expect that soon I won't be able to discuss anything to do with it publicly any more - ethics boards are like that - and I may well have to delete this post as well at some point, too.
But for now.... now you know.