CSC Response to Ashley Smith Inquest Recommendations

in cellSo, the Federal cons and CSC have rejected key recommendations from the Ashley Smith inquest jury….. anyone surprised? Anyone?

I thought not.

It was clear throughout the Inquest that there was little motivation on their part to change anything – and, in fact, very little belief that they could change anything even if they wanted to. One of the problematic features of a corporate culture is that new people who wander into it quickly become part of it. When we heard from CSC manager types, they consistently told us that they couldn’t…didn’t have the resources… no other options… and so on and so on….

Anyway, the headline around the ‘rejection of key recommendations’ are, as one might expect, somewhat an over-simplification by the media. CSC has made – and are making – changes around this area and many others as well. Some of the issues that led to Ashley’s death are in fact being addressed…sort of.  Creative counting to avoid reviews is no longer allowed. The Institutional Head is no longer permitted to delegate/avoid responsibilities re: inmates in administrative segregation – presumably the next time they kill someone for being mentally ill, the warden & other senior managers won’t be able to claim ignorance.

Of course, many of the supposed changes re: administrative segregation are couched in what seems to me, at least, to be a thinly veiled mechanism for avoidance. They apply only to those inmates in administrative segregation “who have been designated as acute or high need intermediate care cases” – so, if we don’t feel the need to be bothered, we can just not pin that particular label on them, right?  As far as I’m concerned – and I would bet that every member of the inquest jury would agree – any inmate who is in administrative segregation should be so designated – else, what the hell are they doing in administrative segregation (since we’ve already said we’re not going to use it for punishment but only as a last resort blah blah blah…) ?

The fact that they felt the need to repeat that phrase in every single point of their approach to me says yeah, we’re not going to follow through with any of this stuff unless it suits us (and we’re pretty sure it won’t suit us). But hey, maybe I’m just a little wee bit cynical.

I could go on and on about the official response to the recommendations – but in the interests of keeping this post to a somewhat reasonable length, I won’t.

Waste of time anyway. Really, the whole exercise was a waste of time, in my opinion. The inquest jury were awesome, and their recommendations are excellent and should be followed in the spirit they were intended – but still a waste of time, energy & resources.

It began too late in the process. Years & years too late. Ashley threw apples at a mailman when she was 15 years old. She was a youth with behavioural &/or mental health issues.

Ashley Smith had a family who was highly motivated to get her help, who did everything ‘right’ given the available supports and resources and still she ended up criminalized, incarcerated for years and years beyond her initial sentence, tortured, and dead.

This is Canada, for crying out loud! Things like this are not supposed to happen here.

We have health care that is supposed to include treatment and support for mental health as well as physical. If she’d had cancer or a broken leg, we’d have been all over that.

The only way to actually get at actually using Ashley Smith’s tragic death to make sure it never happens again, to develop real recommendations that would make a difference that would not be a total waste of time, energy & resources would be to start at the beginning, not the end. An inquiry that examined  entire cases of women like Ashley Smith & Kinew James might well result in productive changes, and that is what should have happened here – but such a thing will never happen while we have governments that care ever so much more about money than about people.

It is ridiculous, actually – we spend ever so much more, in the long run – and people suffer ever so much more as well – when we do things this way. Do we actually save any money? I doubt it. How much was spent on incarcerating Ashley Smith? Add in the cost of the Inquest, and the settlement to her family.

I wonder how many young people could receive real early intervention & mental health & family support for that kind of money – a whole lot more than one seems like a pretty safe guess.

But what would be the fun in that?  The cons clearly much prefer to focus on punishing ~bad~ people – and for that to work, you have to have ~bad~ people …even if you have to go to the trouble of creating them yourself. It’s sick. It is just sick. But it is what we do when we as a society decide not to provide basic needs, not to ensure that there are opportunities for our young people, not to treat mental illness early, not to support those with special needs, not to care.

Neoliberalism at its finest.









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