In light of the jury's recommendations, there are several take-home
messages for society and those involved in caring for children and
young people with special needs.
TORONTO, Dec. 20, 2013 /CNW/ - The jury has returned its verdict in the Ashley Smith inquest after
months of hearing testimony and much deliberation. There are more than
a hundred recommendations for consideration in what was a harrowing
ordeal for all participants. There is no doubt that this was a tragedy
culminating in the death of a young person, hardly out of childhood.
There are several take home messages for society and for all of us
involved in providing care to children and young people with special
needs. It is important that these are not lost in the detail of the
Young people involved with the justice system are more likely to have
mental health problems than not. This is particularly true for girls
who commonly have a complex mix of mental illness and personality
difficulties when they require custodial intervention under the Youth
Criminal Justice Act. Furthermore, these girls frequently display high
risk behaviours like Ashley Smith and require care and attention from
staff with special training and expertise. Work with this population is
inherently risky, but with committed, skilled staff, most young people
are able to make considerable gains in treatment.
There is nothing magical about the age 18 and a young person with mental
health problems on the eve of their 18th birthday will have those problems the next day. Ashley Smith was only
19 when she died and had spent the previous year in a whirlwind of
interprovincial transfers and in repeated episodes of solitary
confinement. It is vital that we consider more than chronological age
when we look at what young people need in custody and in other
treatment settings. Too often we transition young people with mental
health problems with inadequate preparation to an adult system that is
woefully underprepared to take care of them.
Finally the inquest has flagged for all of us the challenges of
providing care to people in our correctional institutions. These are
people on the margins of society that some would have us forget and
throw away. We are urged to measure our society on how it cares for
its weakest members and there are no more disenfranchised than the
Ashley Smiths of this world. We can do a much better job and are
obligated to do so in the future.
Dr. Rod Evans is Vice President Clinical Services and Chief of
Psychiatry at Kinark Child and Family Services.
SOURCE: Kinark Child and Family Services
For further information:
Senior Communications Specialist
Kinark Child and Family Services
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