Ashley Smith Inquest Resumes

Well, the summer is over, school is back in session, and as of tomorrow, 9-Sep, the Ashley Smith Inquest will resume again. Time to clear my side table and swipe my laptop back from hubby (I work on my desktop, watch on the laptop so that I can have it on full screen). Will go down in person at some point in the near future again, most likely, but that’s a long (and expensive) trip each time, so won’t be until after I start getting a pay cheque again.

There are a lot of questions still remaining about Ashley Smith’s death – the key one yet to be addressed by the Inquest is where the order the Correction Officers not enter her cell as long as she was breathing originated. The Inquest has moved up the chain of command – through front line workers and middle managers and supervisors and medical personnel and not yet hit that level. I will be surprised, actually, if any one at any level actually admits to being the originator of the key order.

But while that question – and the many others that have been raised & addressed through the Inquest – are interesting and worth pursuing, it irks me knowing that even when we get to the end of this process and all the reports are in, the recommendations published and all that good stuff, there will still be so many unanswered questions…so many unexplored areas…and so many people who contributed to Ashley’s horrific life and death who will remain unknown, unchallenged, and potentially uneducated about their roles.

By the time she arrived at CSC, Ashley had already been incarcerated for more than 3 years, and she had already made the transition from being a difficult-to-manage brat – a royal pain in the arse, even – to a self-injuring, acting-out, seriously disturbed young woman so severely damaged that a segregated cage seemed the only option.  The Ashley Smith Report which was published by the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate’s Office of New Brunswick in 2008 provides some insight into those three years… into what happened… but it is not, for me, enough.

Those people who were involved in her ~care~ (using the term loosely) over the course of those three years should, in my opinion, have the opportunity to sit their butts in the seat at the front of a courtroom just like the corrections officers and other CSC employees have had to do, and, under oath, face examination into their role in Ashley’s life. And not only the people who worked with her – lets also examine the politicians who made the decisions, the lawyers who represented her, the judges who sentenced her to ever increasing incarceration – who piled on to help turn a 30 day sentence for throwing crab apples at a mailman into a death sentence.

We Canadians don’t believe in death sentences. Supposedly. But Ashley Smith got one. Kinew James got one. Hundreds of other people, as well.  We might not allow judges to sentence people to death – explicitly – but we sure don’t seem to have much problem when it happens ~accidentally~ do we?

In fact, read the comment threads of articles about Ashley Smith, about other prisons who die while in prison…. an awful lot of people seem to be all about blaming the inmate – their fault for being mentally ill, their fault for being in prison, their fault for being dead. It sickens me.  And makes me ashamed to be Canadian.

We can do better. We MUST do better.

I believe that there should be a full inquiry and that it would help us to do better… but of course, that will never happen… at least not this time – maybe the next time… or the next… or the next…


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