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Girl in custody commits suicide while guards watch.

EndomaticEndomatic Registered User regular
edited March 2009 in Debate and/or Discourse
Story from the Canadian Press here

A young 19 year old by the name of Ashley Smith committed suicide by asphyxiation in a Kitchener Ontario jail cell.

She was originally brought into custody for throwing crab apples at a postal worker.

The guards that were responsible for her supervision were ordered to not intervene in any action she undertook in her cell "as long as she was breathing".

The girl eventually asphyxiated, and the guards claimed they were only "following orders" when questioned as to why they didn't stop her even when they clearly saw what she was intending to do.

They figured that waiting her out would serve as discouragement to the action of wrapping strips of cloth from her gown around her neck.

The guards were "reprimanded".
3 guards were eventually fired, and 2 managers later on.

A government inquiry by Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers stated that her treatment was not law abiding. She was transferred 17 times in 11 months, most of which were illegal or improper transfers. She was kept in segregation for a great deal of her incarceration meaning that she was completely alone for some 23 hours a day and was fed her meals through a slot. He concluded that it was a massive failure in the governmental responsibility for incarcerated citizens, but did not release the names of any of the guards or managers involved. The public does not know their identities.

The guards did not attempt to remove the ligature or offer medical assistance after they had decided that she had indeed stopped breathing, but they did call for medical care from a proper professional.

So now that this has all come to light, the biggest thing on people's (and the families) minds' is:
Who are these guards?
Why would you "follow orders" when someone is attempting to commit suicide in front of you?
Should these guards' names be released? After all, they've lost their jobs already. Is that enough?
How will the government attempt to improve upon it's procedures?

What do you guys think?

I think a big issue that no one in the media is really wanting to face is the fact that Ashley could be a very difficult person to deal with. This doesn't mean she should be allowed to strangle herself of course, but it does add a factor into the equation I think.

It's clear that the guards didn't like her. I know, tough shit, do your job. That's how it SHOULD be, but that's certainly not the case here and I wonder if their dislike for her factored into making their decision to leave her be while she was strangling herself easier for them to make.

Add to the fact that they were ordered not to intervene, and you have a perfect situation for someone to throw up their hands and absolve themselves of responsibility.
Certainly not professional, but it seems to be a likely candidate for what may have happened.

I hope this thread is acceptable. It is my first D and D thread.

Endomatic on
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    Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Round Rock, TXRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Not D&D

    Sir Carcass on
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    SzechuanosaurusSzechuanosaurus Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited March 2009
    Endomatic wrote: »
    I hope this thread is acceptable. It is my first D and D thread.

    Oh man.

    Szechuanosaurus on
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    PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Endomatic wrote: »
    It is my first D and D thread.

    [strike]No it's not.[/strike] It is now, disregard previous commentary as thread was moved from H&A

    PeregrineFalcon on
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    EndomaticEndomatic Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Whoops, sorry. Thanks whoever moved it.

    Endomatic on
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    EchoEcho ski-bap ba-dapModerator mod
    edited March 2009
    Man you guys are slow.

    Echo on
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    SzechuanosaurusSzechuanosaurus Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited March 2009
    Echo wrote: »
    Man you guys are slow.

    In both ways.

    Szechuanosaurus on
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    Undead ScottsmanUndead Scottsman Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    "as long as she was breathing"

    "committed suicide by asphyxiation"

    ... Seriously?

    Undead Scottsman on
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    EndomaticEndomatic Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Yes.

    She was one for negative attention. I think she threatened to harm herself quite often.

    The guards noticed that she was cutting and wrapping pieces of her gown around her neck and did nothing, under orders. It was only when her face was a deep purple that they decided it had been long enough, and called for medical help, but for some god forsaken reason they didn't try and help her or give her any assistance before the person arrived.

    That's what I've gathered from the News and the Link.

    Endomatic on
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    PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Smith had repeatedly tied strips of clothing or blankets around her neck as she racked up 150 "security incidents" in just over 11 months in prison.

    ... So what, they thought she wouldn't go through with it?

    Protip: When someone in prison is trying to kill themselves, they're usually serious.

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    SzechuanosaurusSzechuanosaurus Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited March 2009
    11 months seems like an awful long sentence for the crime of throwing crabapples at someone...

    I don't think that anyone could argue that the death was the result of anything except an incredibly callous treatment of the prisoner. Personally, I think the guards and the person who ordered them not to intervene should all be tried for manslaughter. The personality of the girl shouldn't even be relevant, she was technically in their care and as such are responsible for her death.

    Szechuanosaurus on
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    Dunadan019Dunadan019 Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    she got jailed for 11 months for throwing apples at a postal worker?

    Dunadan019 on
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    FencingsaxFencingsax It is difficult to get a man to understand, when his salary depends upon his not understanding GNU Terry PratchettRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Yeah, for some reason, mentally ill people may be difficult to deal with. We should rectify this by letting them strangle themselves. What kind of person can literally stand by while a kid kills themselves?

    Fencingsax on
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    Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Round Rock, TXRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Echo wrote: »
    Man you guys are slow.

    This was totally in H/A when I replied.

    But anyway, my guess is she probably had a history of threatening suicide as a cry for attention and they figured this was more of the same. They do have a responsibility for her while she is in their custody, so I think they were criminally negligent, but I don't feel it was more than that.

    Sir Carcass on
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    bowenbowen How you doin'? Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I'm calling it now, I bet we find out the postal worker made some lewd comment or tried do something sexual to her that caused the original crab-apple throwing.

    bowen on
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    PeregrineFalconPeregrineFalcon Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    she got jailed for 11 months for throwing apples at a postal worker?
    Smith wound up in the federal system at 18, three years after an assault conviction for pelting crabapples at a postman suspected of delivering welfare cheques late. She was originally sentenced for minor offences, but in-custody infractions added months and then years of extra prison time.

    So she started at 15 with an assault charge (also, nice shitty wording by the writer, you don't "pelt object at person", you "pelt person with object") and then rather than doing her time, decided to make things worse.

    No idea how long/severe the initial sentence was.

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    InfidelInfidel Heretic Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Dunadan019 wrote: »
    she got jailed for 11 months for throwing apples at a postal worker?

    She was jailed for her actions while in custody, basically escalating the whole situation to where she was serving time.

    edit: beaten, but I read "in-custody infractions" to basically mean there was no jailtime for the original offense, just that they picked her up of course. While processing she probably started freaking out and it kept getting out of hand, trying to do harm to herself and being a danger to herself and the officers.

    Seems like this should have been a preventable death still yes, but also consider the whole sick prison omg get in here quick type routines that corrections officers have to be wary of. Officer safety is always a concern and she was known to be self-destructive and carrying broken glass and such, a danger to everyone.

    Infidel on
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    zerg rushzerg rush Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    11 months months of solitary confinement will drive anyone crazy.

    zerg rush on
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    EndomaticEndomatic Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Echo wrote: »
    Man you guys are slow.

    This was totally in H/A when I replied.

    But anyway, my guess is she probably had a history of threatening suicide as a cry for attention and they figured this was more of the same. They do have a responsibility for her while she is in their custody, so I think they were criminally negligent, but I don't feel it was more than that.

    I think my views on it hover somewhere around something like this.

    While the guards were certainly negligent and down right stupid, I can sorta get into their mindset regarding this girl. If she's doing it all the time, which it seems like she was if it's 150 incidents in 11 months, it could lead to a great deal of apathy.

    The guards are humans, they can only take so much. It feels to me like a really really fucked up "the boy who cried wolf" story. Somewhat.

    I think the focus of the investigation will be equal between why did they let her die, and how in the fuck did she get here from some fucking apples thrown?
    Although I think the latter should have a heavier weight to it so this doesn't happen again.

    It seems like the first part is mostly worked out, there's just some finer points that need to be stated and cleared up.

    I'm scared for some of these kids facing this.
    I live in a small town with a lot of shitty teenagers doing stupid, mean and disrespectful shit all the god damn time, but I really don't think they deserve this.

    I know a kid that was picked up for lighting a trash can on fire. I dunno if it was on purpose or if it was a still-lit match or whatever.
    What happened was that they picked him up. Took him to the local jail for a few hours and waited to see if anyone came looking for him right away and then fucked off with him to Calgary (2 hours away) without telling ANYONE. Not his dad, not his friends, not his teachers. NO ONE, and they didn't let him call anyone.

    Thank god his dad went looking for him, and found him in Calgary. He had to find out through his teachers, then his friends for the details before he found out that the cops had him.
    If he wasn't discovered, where the fuck would he be now?

    He's not even a bad kid! He just did something absurdly stupid.

    This kind of shit happens all the god damn time, and it's frightening that our citizens are treated in this manner. They're just kids doing stupid shit. The world is fucked up and full of bad parents and negative influences. Help them. Don't lock them up.

    And that's what happened with Ashley. She was locked up, and didn't get a fucking iota of help regarding her extremely clear mental conditions.

    Endomatic on
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    CantideCantide Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    The guards definitely share some of the blame for this, but so does the management.
    "We know from documentation that at times staff were reprimanded for entering Ashley Smith's cell too soon after she applied a ligature to herself. And the message that was given was that waiting would . . . stop reinforcing that behaviour."

    Cantide on
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    FencingsaxFencingsax It is difficult to get a man to understand, when his salary depends upon his not understanding GNU Terry PratchettRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Cantide wrote: »
    The guards definitely share some of the blame for this, but so does the management.
    "We know from documentation that at times staff were reprimanded for entering Ashley Smith's cell too soon after she applied a ligature to herself. And the message that was given was that waiting would . . . stop reinforcing that behaviour."
    That would be why 2 managers were fired as well.

    Also, what psychiatric help was she getting? Because it seems obvious that she was not healthy.

    Fencingsax on
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    DmanDman Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Not a proud moment for Canada. Seems like the system couldn't handle a bad apple and just left her in a cage alone to continue her downward spiral to death. I'm kinda sickened that guards watched her die and did nothing, orders or not that makes you a pretty pathetic human being.

    Dman on
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    SzechuanosaurusSzechuanosaurus Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited March 2009
    Ok, so she was mentally ill, entered prison at fifteen and "She spent most of the last four years of her life in isolation"?

    Jesus fucking Christ.

    I mean, frankly, she shouldn't have even been there in the first place. That's just god damned ridiculous.

    And then they stand and watch her die? Wow, just wow.

    Szechuanosaurus on
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    InfidelInfidel Heretic Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Fencingsax wrote: »
    Cantide wrote: »
    The guards definitely share some of the blame for this, but so does the management.
    "We know from documentation that at times staff were reprimanded for entering Ashley Smith's cell too soon after she applied a ligature to herself. And the message that was given was that waiting would . . . stop reinforcing that behaviour."
    That would be why 2 managers were fired as well.

    Also, what psychiatric help was she getting? Because it seems obvious that she was not healthy.

    Yeah, this case is an excellent example of people who need psych jail not regular jail. She needed help she was seemingly not getting enough of if at all, and the guards/management were not trained or equipped to deal with this kind of person.

    Infidel on
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    Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Round Rock, TXRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Dman wrote: »
    Not a proud moment for Canada. Seems like the system couldn't handle a bad apple and just left her in a cage alone to continue her downward spiral to death. I'm kinda sickened that guards watched her die and did nothing, orders or not that makes you a pretty pathetic human being.

    I see what you did there.

    Sir Carcass on
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    InfidelInfidel Heretic Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Ok, so she was mentally ill, entered prison at fifteen and "She spent most of the last four years of her life in isolation"?

    Jesus fucking Christ.
    Smith wound up in the federal system at 18, three years after an assault conviction for pelting crabapples at a postman suspected of delivering welfare cheques late.

    So just a year. The conviction for the original offense was well before the jailing.

    edit: but yeah, the four years isolation I guess she was still in some type of custody and thats where she racked up the jail time?

    Infidel on
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    Sir CarcassSir Carcass I have been shown the end of my world Round Rock, TXRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Infidel wrote: »
    Yeah, this case is an excellent example of people who need psych jail not regular jail. She needed help she was seemingly not getting enough of if at all, and the guards/management were not trained or equipped to deal with this kind of person.

    Agreed. With her history, it baffles me why she wasn't committed.

    Sir Carcass on
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    SzechuanosaurusSzechuanosaurus Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited March 2009
    Infidel wrote: »
    Ok, so she was mentally ill, entered prison at fifteen and "She spent most of the last four years of her life in isolation"?

    Jesus fucking Christ.
    Smith wound up in the federal system at 18, three years after an assault conviction for pelting crabapples at a postman suspected of delivering welfare cheques late.

    So just a year. The conviction for the original offense was well before the jailing.

    edit: but yeah, the four years isolation I guess she was still in some type of custody and thats where she racked up the jail time?

    Yeah, sounds like she would have been in non-federal custody at the age of 15 for the assault and then her 'behaviour' while incarcerated gradually escalated to federal imprisonment. Or maybe it was just a transfer from juvy. Either way, mentally ill girl shouldn't have even been imprisoned for assault in the first place and certainly not isolated and mistreated to the point where she ended up killing herself while guards watched.

    There's really no excuse for that at all. As I say, she shouldn't have been there in the first place. If they didn't realise when they first convicted her, it should've quickly become clear that she needed to be a hospital, not a prison.

    Szechuanosaurus on
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    GooeyGooey (\/)┌¶─¶┐(\/) pinch pinchRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    If somebody is told "everything's okay" (or "she's crying 'wolf'") they tend to do what they're told.


    Sounds like this is more a failure of the justice system at large than it is of the officers who were actually there. This girl needed to be in a hospital.

    Gooey on
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    SarcastroSarcastro Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Also not mentioned but implied in the report is that she would do this quite often, to lure or draw guards into the cell.

    If you'd seen it a hundred times, and nothing happened, what would cause you to go in guns blazing on 101? Its just that girl acting up again, dont worry about it...

    Not an excuse, but not as monstrous an act as its being made out to be. The situation as a whole though.. fuckin deplorable.

    Sarcastro on
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    DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    It's definitely a failure of the system, less so the guards. Those guards weren't trained or equipped to deal with a seriously mentally ill person. She should've been in a facility with people trained to deal with her problems. Expecting a normal security guard to know what to do with someone who is honestly messed up in the head and doesn't function like a normal person doesn't work. That's why we have the different types of facilities.

    Darkewolfe on
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    InfidelInfidel Heretic Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    I fault the management and not the officers.

    The officers have no say in who they get in their custody. They have to deal with it. That girl should not have been there, they were not trained or capable of handling her. Again, a management and policy fail.

    Then of course the management reprimanding them for "paying attention to her" and making a policy to let her do her thing, her thing being to kill herself.

    If I was one of the guards, I'd be sick to my stomache over the whole thing and I sympathize. It's a shitty situation they were placed in.

    Infidel on
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    ThanatosThanatos Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Infidel wrote: »
    I fault the management and not the officers.

    The officers have no say in who they get in their custody. They have to deal with it. That girl should not have been there, they were not trained or capable of handling her. Again, a management and policy fail.

    Then of course the management reprimanding them for "paying attention to her" and making a policy to let her do her thing, her thing being to kill herself.

    If I was one of the guards, I'd be sick to my stomache over the whole thing and I sympathize. It's a shitty situation they were placed in.
    No, if you were one of the guards, you'd most likely be a sociopath in the first place. The psychological profile on your average violent prisoner and your average prison guard is nigh-identical.

    This is pretty much par for the course as far as prison guards go. However, I do think it's pretty ridiculous that you can rack up four years of prison time on an eleven-month sentence as simple non-judicial punishment.

    Thanatos on
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    kedinikkedinik Captain of Industry Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    It's one thing to be undertrained for a situation, but that does not explain passively watching another human being strangle herself while under your care.

    kedinik on
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    InfidelInfidel Heretic Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Thanatos wrote: »
    However, I do think it's pretty ridiculous that you can rack up four years of prison time on an eleven-month sentence as simple non-judicial punishment.

    I find it pretty ridiculous that someone would be so disruptive that they would get themselves stuck in the system that long.

    It was likely due to mental illness though, which should have been diagnosed.

    But man, it is way too hard to have someone committed or deemed unfit these days. Many people with mental illnesses do not acknowledge themselves as having such, and unless they do it's very difficult to get them the help they need.

    Infidel on
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    FencingsaxFencingsax It is difficult to get a man to understand, when his salary depends upon his not understanding GNU Terry PratchettRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Infidel wrote: »
    Thanatos wrote: »
    However, I do think it's pretty ridiculous that you can rack up four years of prison time on an eleven-month sentence as simple non-judicial punishment.

    I find it pretty ridiculous that someone would be so disruptive that they would get themselves stuck in the system that long.

    It was likely due to mental illness though, which should have been diagnosed.

    But man, it is way too hard to have someone committed or deemed unfit these days. Many people with mental illnesses do not acknowledge themselves as having such, and unless they do it's very difficult to get them the help they need.
    ...Well she had been isolated for a huge length of time, she caused a lot of disturbances, and finally, she killed herself. That does not speak to a picture of mental good health.

    Fencingsax on
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    Vincent GraysonVincent Grayson Frederick, MDRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Dman wrote: »
    Not a proud moment for Canada. Seems like the system couldn't handle a bad apple and just left her in a cage alone to continue her downward spiral to death. I'm kinda sickened that guards watched her die and did nothing, orders or not that makes you a pretty pathetic human being.

    Between this and that movie Dear Zachary that just came out, I can't help but think Canada's justice system is just as fucking retarded as ours.

    Vincent Grayson on
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    InfidelInfidel Heretic Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    Fencingsax wrote: »
    Infidel wrote: »
    Thanatos wrote: »
    However, I do think it's pretty ridiculous that you can rack up four years of prison time on an eleven-month sentence as simple non-judicial punishment.

    I find it pretty ridiculous that someone would be so disruptive that they would get themselves stuck in the system that long.

    It was likely due to mental illness though, which should have been diagnosed.

    But man, it is way too hard to have someone committed or deemed unfit these days. Many people with mental illnesses do not acknowledge themselves as having such, and unless they do it's very difficult to get them the help they need.
    ...Well she had been isolated for a huge length of time, she caused a lot of disturbances, and finally, she killed herself. That does not speak to a picture of mental good health.

    And yet she wasn't in a mental facility. That's part of the problem I'm referring to, it's become way too difficult to get someone classified even if it seems obvious to those that know them.

    Infidel on
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    UnbreakableVowUnbreakableVow Registered User regular
    edited March 2009
    So what's the real problem here, exactly?

    UnbreakableVow on
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    JohnnyCacheJohnnyCache Starting Defense Place at the tableRegistered User regular
    edited March 2009
    The US justice system is so primitive and brutal.

    This would never happen in a civilized country like cana..oh...shit.

    JohnnyCache on
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    edited March 2009
    I agree with everything Szech and Than have said so far.

    I wanted to add two things. First, there are anti-suicide garments specifically designed to prevent hangings. They look awful and they're uncomfortable as fuck, but they can't be torn into strips. She should have been given one of those as soon as she was identified as a suicide risk and put into isolation.

    Second, I'm not sure if I understand what an "in-custody infraction" is and how that system works in Ontario. In the US, you can get time off for good behavior, you can lose privileges (like TV or yard time) for bad behavior, but the only reason your sentence would be extended is if you actually committed a crime while inside. Was she continuing to commit crimes? Or did they extend her sentence over the bullshit infractions that would result in a loss of TV time in the US? If it's the latter, that is fucked up, because they can infract you for the stupidest bullshit here.

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