In 2003, 15-year-old Ashley Smith was incarcerated for a minor offence (throwing crab apples at a mail carrier) at the New Brunswick Youth Centre, where she spent 27 of 36 months in solitary confinement. At 18, she was transferred to the adult prison system in which she was moved between cells and intuitions 17 times in less than a year.
In October 2007, Ashley was brought to Waterloo Region, and on October 19, inside her solitary confinement cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women, she died by self-strangulation using a cloth ligature – while prison guards allegedly watched, failing to intervene in time to rescue her.
An inquest investigating the circumstances surrounding her incarceration and eventual death finally commenced in September 2012; in December 2013 the jury declared Ashley’s death a homicide. This troubling story and inquest has sparked a great deal of media attention for its shocking exposure of Canada’s prison system and neglect of those suffering from mental illness.