MONTREAL, May 19 /CNW Telbec/ - The evidence presented this week at an
Ontario Coroner's inquest into the 2007 death of federal inmate Ashley
Smith reinforces the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers' belief
that she might still be alive if the Correctional Service of Canada had
implemented a union proposal to construct special secure units for
high-risk female offenders.
Since 2005, the union has been pushing for a special facility that could
safely and more humanely house inmates who pose a high risk of harm to
themselves and others.
"Ashley Smith spent almost her entire time in federal custody confined
to a segregation cell, where she lacked stimulation of any kind," noted
UCCO-SACC-CSN Ontario Regional President Jason Godin. "Like other
high-risk female offenders in the federal system, she had no access to
programs and could not work at an job. Her verbal interaction was
limited to talking through her food slot with other highly disturbed
inmates housed in segregation units at the various institutions she was
held at across Canada."
According to the union's proposal, an adapted unit would create
opportunities for greater participation in programs and activity
schedules, so that high-risk female inmates could eventually rejoin the
general inmate population in a healthier and more secure fashion.
Only after the death of Ashley Smith did CSC agree to create a joint
union-management committee in 2008 to examine this proposal. More than
three years later, however, high-risk female offenders on the so-called
management protocol are still held for months or years at a time in
"This situation is unacceptable," said Mr. Godin. "It's only a matter of
time before we see another Ashley Smith. The Correctional Service must
stop dragging its feet on this file."
Officers at risk
Mr. Godin said the union is also concerned about a court order this week
to publicly release penitentiary incident videos without blurring the
faces of correctional staff, and he invited media outlets to use
prudence when broadcasting excerpts or printing still photos from the
While the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has always said the
full truth of the Ashley Smith saga needs to be public and therefore
supports the release of this video footage, publicly identifying
correctional staff is a dangerous outcome that puts these men and women
"These videos demonstrate that our members did their job with courage
and compassion," said Mr. Godin. "Despite the constant assaults from
this troubled inmate and the incoherence of CSC management's directives
involving Ashley Smith, correctional officers saved her life almost on
a daily basis during her 11 months in federal custody."
Mr. Godin recalled that CSC implemented a policy preventing correctional
officers from entering Ashley Smith's cell to remove ligatures during
her near-daily episodes of self-choking unless they perceived that she
had stopped breathing - a near impossibility for non-medical staff
forced to listen for the inmate's breathing patterns through the food
slot of a segregation cell door.
After inmate Smith died October 19, 2007, three correctional officers
were fired by CSC before they were completely exonerated of charges of
criminal negligence causing death, while four others were suspended for
three months without pay. The union succeeded in overturning all the
dismissals and suspensions.
SOURCE UNION OF CANADIAN CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS(UCCO)
For further information:
Lyle Stewart, CSN communications, at 514 796-2066