Smith inquest urged to protect identity of guards
A former correctional service worker who was videotaped during incidents involving Ashley Smith in 2007 said she fears for her and her daughter’s safety should a video showing her face be released to the public.
"The story is going to be told and it should be told, but showing the faces of those involved doesn't add ... to that and it causes unnecessary emotional turmoil, not just to the parties involved, but to the families, who are innocent parties in this," Deirdre Reinhardt, an administrative assistant at Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., testified Tuesday.
"I think it's fine for the world to see the videos and what we did, but I don't think they need to see specific individuals. It does more harm."
Reinhardt was testifying in Toronto at the coroner's inquest into Smith's death.
"If one of the officers acted improperly, would they have the right to have their identity shielded from the public?" Julian Roy, a lawyer for Smith’s family, asked Reinhardt.
"Yes, I think they do," Reinhardt told coroner Dr. Bonita Porter.
Smith spiralled into despair and ultimately choked herself to death on a piece of cloth at the Kitchener women's prison in October 2007 as guards looked on, ordered not to enter her cell unless she stopped breathing.
CSC staff took videos each time there was a "use of force" incident involving the troubled 19-year-old from New Brunswick.
The CSC has brought formal motions asking the coroner to either suppress the videos or order that all faces of correctional workers be blurred before they can be aired on TV or the internet.
The most controversial videos yet to be played at the inquest will include recordings of the day Smith choked to death in her cell, as well as a video of threats and forced injections of anti-psychotic drugs at Joliette Institution in Quebec in July 2007.
David Dick, the warden of Grand Valley Institution, also testified in support of blurring out all faces of any guard videotaped while involved with Smith.
He said he received emails from 18 correctional workers who feel their privacy would be invaded should their images be broadcast on TV.
Dick told the coroner he fears that staff will find ways to "forget" to grab a camera and videotape use of force incidents in the future (as per CSC policy) should guards be worried: "Is my face going to end up on the CBC?"
"This could be a disincentive for staff to not follow policy," Dick warned