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Ashley Smith incident reports worried prison officials

05/28/2013 12:43 EDT | Updated 07/28/2013 05:12 EDT
A correctional official from the Grand Valley Institution for Women testified at the Ashley Smith inquest that prison management was trying to keep the number of incident reports down during the Moncton teen's stay.

Janice Sandeson, who was a manager at the Kitchener, Ont., facility at the time, said her supervisors were concerned about the number of incident reports being filed every time Smith tied a ligature around her neck and guards entered her cell to intervene.

Management felt the growing number of reports made the institution look bad and told guards to leave Smith alone as long as she was breathing, Sandeson said under questioning by lawyer Howard Rubel.

"I'm going to suggest to you that there were two options — one is to report them incorrectly and the other is to reduce the number of times that Ashley's cell is entered by correctional officers," said Rubel.

"That's a fair statement," Sandeson replied.

'The easy one is to tell correctional officers, 'Just don't enter that cell,'" continued Rubel. "And then there's nothing to write about. Right?"

"Right," Sandeson said.

Smith was 19 when she died at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., in October 2007, after she tied a piece of cloth around her neck while guards, who were ordered not to intervene, stood outside her cell door and watched.

Sandeson admitted to Rubel there was very little documenting those orders.

“There was all sorts of arrangements made as to when to give her her shower, when to escort her, what type of food she could be provided with — and these were all detailed in the first management plan," said Rubel.

"Correct," replied Sandeson.

"But not a word about ligature use, or how to respond to it," Rubel said.

Sandeson told the inquest she didn't agree with the orders. She said Smith was under medical distress a number of times and she didn't like having to wait to intervene, but she was feeling pressure from management.

Smith sometimes tied the ligatures so tight she got nosebleeds and would start to turn purple, Sandeson said.

The teen had told guards she like the sensation, it made her feel high. Smith, who was first incarcerated at age 15, also liked the attention it brought to her, the inquest heard.

Another correctional manager, Eric Broadbent, is expected to take the stand on Tuesday.

A number of guards have testified it was Broadbent who told them not to enter Smith's cell if she was breathing.

The Ontario coroner's inquest into her death started on Jan. 14 in Toronto.

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