Ashley Smith inquest begins Monday
A long-awaited coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith begins Monday.
She is the 19-year-old who in 2007, strangled herself in her cell at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener as 7 guards looked on.
The inquest will delve into the direct cause of her death, but will also tackle much broader issues.
Newstalk 1010 legal analyst Steve Skurka says the probe must also consider how our corrections system handles people with mental health issues while incarcerated, who is responsible for mistakes made in Smith's case & how to make sure those mistakes don't happen again.
The government tried to limit the scope of the inquest, but gave up in October.
Smith first landed in a youth jail at age 15 after throwing crab apples at mail carrier in Moncton, NB. Her lock up stretched from weeks into years as time was tacked on for many in-custody incidents. In the 3 years she was in custody in New Brunswick, Smith racked up hundreds of them, ranging from refusal to hand over a hair brush, to self-harm & suicide attempts.
In the last year of her life, Skurka says Smith was shuffled more like an object than a human being. She was moved 17 times between 9 institutions in 5 provinces.
In October, shocking video of Smith's in-custody treatment was made public after Ottawa gave up trying to block its release. The Toronto Star reported Sunday the feds have spent at least $3.6-million on legal bills in the case.
The footage shows Smith on a trip between jails, with a mesh hood over her face to keep from spitting, her hands duct taped to her seat. Another clip taken at the Joliette Institution in Quebec shows her strapped down, then injected with anti-psychotic drugs as a team of staffers, some in riot gear pin her down.
The images caused public outrage & prompted Prime Minister Stephen Harper to rebuke prison authorities.
This is the 2nd inquest into Ashley Smith's death. The 1st collapsed last year amid months of bitter legal fights when the coroner abruptly quit.
Skurka expects this inquest which will hear from over 100 witnesses, to last between 6 months & 1 year. He says there are lot of parties who have interest in the case who deserve to be heard & it's issues deserve to be heard fairly.
The coroner has also agreed to have the proceedings streamed live on the Internet, pointing to a high level of public interest. Skurka says it doesn't matter if anyone actually watches, only that it's an open, transparent process.
(With files from the Canadian Press)