Announcement from Shannon Balla:
Remembering Ashley Smith
Community gathering & vigil
October 19th, 7-8pm
Speakers Corner (King and Benton), Kitchener
On the 5th anniversary of Ashley’s death in a segregation cell in Kitchener’s Grand Valley Institution for Women
Come and share a time of collective mourning and a renewed commitment to change as we remember Ashley and others who struggle against the isolation and oppression of the prison system
Hosted by: We Remember Ashley Smith Campaign
For more information: 226-789-6786; firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashley Smith (January 29, 1988 – October 19, 2007) died at age 19 in a segregation cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener. Having been denied a transfer to a psychiatric facility and on suicide watch, Ashley tied a ligature around her neck and, while staff watched (having been ordered not to intervene), asphyxiated to death. The over four years of Ashley’s institutionalization were marked by isolation, violence, forced injections, and frequent transfers. In the 11 months before her death, while in federal custody, she was moved 17 times between 8 facilities in 4 provinces, largely for ‘administrative reasons’. She was denied access to her family, to advocates and to legal counsel.
Reports of the Federal Correctional Investigator and New Brunswick Ombudsman attribute Ashley’s death to failures of individual staff and to much deeper failures within the correctional and mental health systems themselves. A provincial coroner’s inquest was launched in Ontario but was halted in September 2011 due to legal challenges and logistical obstacles. A new inquest is set to begin in January 2013.
Ashley’s death in Grand Valley five years ago exposes the inherent violence of the ‘corrections’ system and demands a response from those of us who live in the community where she died. Remembering Ashley, and all those who have died or been damaged by these institutions, is an act of collective resistance against a deeply unjust ‘justice system’. Strengthening our shared commitment to building communities of love, equity, and true justice is at the heart of this event.