justice / mental health / prison

Ashley Smith: Corrected to Death


I’m not a parent, but I have no doubt that losing a child is the worst kind of suffering.  Ashley Smith’s parents lost their daughter twice:  first to the correctional system and then to suicide.   As if this weren’t enough to bear, they discovered that Ashley had strangled herself with a cloth in a segregation cell, in full view of 7 prison guards, none of whom intervened until it was too late.  She was 19 years old.

How did this happen? The Toronto Star has been running a series of investigative reports looking into Ashley’s tragic story.  An article written on October 10th outlines her childhood, her diagnosis of oppositional defiant order at the age of 15, and her entry into the correctional system later that year.

A 4-month sentence for throwing a crab apple at a postal worker turned into 4 years of incarceration, as she was transferred from institution to institution.  Rather than recognizing her self-harming and aggressive behaviours as signs of escalating emotional distress, correctional staff kept adding new charges which lengthened her sentence, and using severe punitive measures against her, including 11 and a half months in segregation.

I have heard and read the stories of many people who have spent time in segregation.  They report experiencing disorientation, confusion, isolation, depression, despair, hallucinations and even psychosis.  Despite CSC’s claims to the contrary, it’s hard to see this practice as anything other than cruel, inhumane torture.

In the wake of Ashley’s death and others like it, the Correctional Investigator (CI) has made several recommendations in order to avoid more deaths in custody; such as asking for outside oversight of such practices as the isolation of mentally ill offenders in segregation cells for extended periods of time.

Unfortunately, the CI’s office, which is one of the few bodies that monitors federal corrections, is effectively neutered by its inability to enforce its own recommendations.  If you look at some of the CI’s annual reports, you will see the same recommendations being made year after year, and being routinely ignored by CSC.

The prison system creates a culture of silence and obfuscation, where trying to get even the most basic information is an exercise in endurance, and a test of sanity.  This is why it it so easy for people to get lost inside the walls.   As Ashley’s mom Coralee Smith says in the Star article:

“We had absolutely no idea.   I think maybe some people look at the situation and say, ‘Oh, they must have known. Where are the parents?’ And I’m thinking, you have no idea – that once your child is gone into the system, you don’t have any control. You have nothing.”

We need to demand transparency and accountability, so that no one else has to lose a child.

To read the full text of the Star article, click on this link:



7 thoughts on “Ashley Smith: Corrected to Death

  1. This happens all the time. CSC doesn’t give a fuck about the people in its care, and if you’re in the hole, they’d rather just ignore you. Mentally ill people in prison are helped by Peer Counselors, not by csc, and csc ties the hands of the peer counselors too. Psychologists are a joke, most are not even licensed, instead operating under the umbrella of one licensed psychologist. Who by the way is not answerable to a supervisory psychologist as are all licensed shrinks in mainstream society.

    As for parents being “in the know” of what goes on in prison to their children, the ONLY way a parent (or anyone for that matter) can get information out of a prison is IF THE PRISONER GETS WORD OUT themselves. Csc is protected by saying “for the good of the institution”, or “we’re protecting the prisoner”, in case they maybe targeted. Which is a load of bullshit.

    By the way, its LESS PAPERWORK to fill out when a prisoner commits suicide in prison than it is to file for one that was “saved” by staff.


    That’s right, csc will do nothing to them, and IF (big big if) something does happen, the guards will only be transferred and not lose pay in the process, but THEY WILL NOT lose their jobs.

    They certainly will never face criminal charges for standing around like festering wastes of human excrement while a person dies.

    • In other words the csc, the guards who watched and even the present government of Canada are mentally ill and without a normal conscience.

  2. I am appalled at the mistreatment Ashley endured! This is utterly disgusting to put it mildly. In Canada of all places! Where people go to school and learn how to treat people with mental illnesses. We are still stupid!

    Why was she segregated over and over and endlessly? Just to see how long a person can survive without human contact??? There is no excuse for this!!!

  3. i watched ashely’s story on the fifth estate. as canadians i say shame on us all. as a mum who has a daughter who suffers with bi polar disorder i say it is so dam difficult to get any help at all for mental illness. it has been 8 years so far and i have to say even the “professionals” aka psychiatrisits dont get it, nor do most of them care or have any empathy or compassion at all. they think its personality which it isnt. just imagine having cancer and being thrown in jail because of it. or a heart attack or any other illness. come on people wake up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    my heart goes out to coralee. i cannot imagine the hell she is going thru. and the hell poor ashley was going thru also. this should never have happened. this is totally appaling to say the least.
    i have started a charity called hugs n luv for mental illness. together we can stop the stigma. when the stigma is gone the rest will fall easily into place.
    for more info e mail hugsnluv@yahoo.ca
    hugs n luv

  4. Please, someone has to put all the guilty parties through the same as she experienced. Please, all the scum that were in the process right down to the cell and segregation units, guards, judges, evil doctors. These people are not the right people to deal with this. These people are hired by friends and family, with cushy pay and jobs and have no feel for it. The same is happening in all our institutions like old age home beatings, child foster home abuses and rapes.

    WTF people, someone has to kick them out. Zero tolerance policy. What a disgusting scene from the people that waste our taxes like this.

  5. 1) before any ask where the heck were the parents- I know that answer. The answer is because she was transferred so often that visting become impossible.

    2) I am not surprised about the fact the “guards” are FOFs (friends of friends). Since once upon a time fathers could buy their sons’s way up to General/Sergant.

  6. I have followed the story of Ashely smiths for some time now,I myself did time just 3 months but it was hell a small cell where at times aothers tried to burn you out and when in the kitchen threatened you in other ways.But I was lucky Others were not,The Whole system Stinks from the the top to the bottom,As my Dad dad he left a dictatorship in germany came to canada and ever since it has became what he left.I have done 10 times more criminal related crimes if you want to call them that than Ashely could have ever,and was she ever mental at all or so called having a mental sickness,Believe me the so called correctionell systerm will make you a mental person if nothing else.shame on Us shame on Our Politicians It is Time For A Canadian Revolution there is No Accountability.If Ashely had been my daughter there would be another mental person in lock up and that would be me,House Cleaning Time .Wake Up Canada!!!

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