Criminal Lawyer Blog

Government response to Ashley Smith inquest branded 'Orwellian'

TORONTO – Canadian prison authorities have rejected core recommendations made by the Ashley Smith inquest a year ago but said they were still looking at ways to cut the use of segregation.

Coralee Smith, the mother of the mentally ill teen who choked to death in her isolation cell, denounced the government's inquest response as inadequate.

Among their 104 recommendations, inquest jurors urged an end to ``indefinite solitary confinement'' and the use of segregation beyond 15 days for female inmates with mental-health issues.

The government rejected that approach in its 26-page, 18,000-word report released Thursday.

``There are various aspects of the jury recommendations...that the government is unable to fully support without causing undue risk to the safe management of the federal correctional system,'' the response states.

``However, CSC will continue to explore other alternatives to the use of segregation.''

The aim, the response states, is to ``reframe the thinking'' about the use of isolation, and the service would consult further to develop options by June 2015.

Smith, who had a lengthy chat on Thursday with Don Head, the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, said she was ``gravely disappointed.''

``I can't see any real changes,'' Smith told The Canadian Press from Dartmouth, N.S. ``Segregation is basically going to stay the same.''

Julian Roy, one of the lawyers who represented Smith's family at the inquest, said the government had ripped out the ``heart'' of the jury's recommendations.

``After all that they heard, and after all the work of this jury, the CSC still doesn't get it,'' Roy said.

``They are addicted to the use of solitary confinement.''


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