A corrections manager apologized to the family of Ashley Smith on Tuesday at the Ontario coroner's inquest into the 2007 prison death of the Moncton teen.
Heather Magee, who introduced herself as a mother and a grandmother, said guards and inmates at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., were deeply affected by Smith's death.
She testified that while Smith did often frustrate staff, at the same time many of them liked the teen and had a good rapport with her.
"For me, it hurt to see what I call my kid, in pain."
'But I think the thing that I have the hardest [time] with is we're good people. We are good people. We're doing this job because we want to because we love it.'—Heather Magee, correctional manager
Through tears, Magee said she has found the inquest upsetting.
"But I think the thing that I have the hardest [time] with is we're good people. We are good people. We're doing this job because we want to because we love it."
Magee continued her testimony with her voice quivering.
"And I am truly sorry to the family, I really am. And I can't imagine what that was like for them to go through," she said.
"But we didn't mean this to happen ... and I think this testifying here has just brought everything back for me. I'm normally not like this, I don't cry at work but it's just brought everything back and she was a sweet kid."
Guards frustrated with lack of resources
Magee said it was hard to see guards, who were instructed to stay out of Smith's cell until she stopped breathing penalized for following the orders of regional supervisors.
She told the inquest that it wasn't until Smith's death that management stepped up and brought in the extra resources guards had been asking for.
"All of the sudden, we had whatever we wanted," Magee said.
"We had staff that you were walking over, which we wanted before but we wouldn't get ... all of the sudden we had up to 60 or 50 officers from all over Canada. It made me angry."
Magee told the jury that staff at the institution were overwhelmed by instructions on how to deal with the teen, describing some of the orders as inhumane.
"We weren't to talk to her, remain neutral, watch out for facial expressions — almost to the point it was difficult to keep track of what we were to do and not to do."
Smith was 19 when she died at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., in October 2007, after she tied a piece of cloth around her neck, while guards stood outside her cell and watched.