Ashley Smith's poems, journal moved psychologist
Teen's death should yield changes to inmate mental health care, says Dr. Gary Chaimowitz
Four specialized psychiatrists testifying at the coroner's inquest looking into the death of Ashley Smith offered more suggestions on how to make changes to the treatment of inmates dealing with mental health issues.
The psychiatrists took the stand Tuesday for a second day at the inquest, which is probing the death of Smith, a Moncton teen who died in Oct. 2007 at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., after tying a piece of cloth around her neck. The guards who stood outside her cell and watched, say they had been ordered not to intervene.
The psychiatrists discussed how things could be done differently, everything from consent over body cavity searches to better treatment for inmates with mental health issues, including the possibility of a specialized travelling team of professionals to a designated unit.
Whatever the outcome, the important thing is that something is done, said Dr. Gary Chaimowitz.
"I mean we can't not do anything and not one solution is necessarily going to be the solution. I think we need to plant a flag somewhere. Someone needs to say somewhere, someone takes responsibility for the issues that have arisen out of Ashley Smith's life and death."
Ashley Smith's own words were both shocking and powerful and gave him real insight into the teen, said Chaimowitz who read a poem she wrote in 2006 at the age of 18.
"It's my life I no longer love. I'd rather be set free above. Get it over with while the time is right. Late some rainy night. Turn black as the sky and as cold as the sea. Say goodbye to Ashley. Miss me and don't be sad. I'm not sad, I'm happy and glad. I'm free, where I want to be. No more caged up Ashley. Wishing I were free, free like a bird."
He also read from a journal entry written around the same time that talked about dying.
When asked about the writings, Smith told staff at the New Brunswick Youth Centre in Miramichi she was just joking.