BROADCAST DATE : Nov 12, 2010

Behind the Wall

With guards watching and a video camera rolling, Ashley Smith slowly choked herself to death in a federal prison on Oct. 19, 2007. How could this tragic turn of events have happened? And what does it tell us about the way mentally ill inmates are treated in a prison system that was once the envy of the world? With the inquest into Ashley Smith’s death set to begin, the fifth estate has obtained critical videotape footage that shows Smith’s time in prison and brings unique insight into the full extent of this tragedy.

Convicted at only 15 years of age, Ashley Smith’s original 30-day sentence stretched to four years and included 17 separate transfers by Corrections Canada within a year. In the most in-depth examination of her tragic story yet, the fifth estate also examines the little-known 114 days she spent in early 2007 at the Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC) in Saskatoon. The only psychiatric hospital in the country with a therapeutic healing program designed for women offenders, RPC had Smith locked in segregation after clashing with guards and staff. Shocking revelations come from former nurses, one social worker and a former warden, all of whom stepped forward to share their stories for the first time.

One tip received by the fifth estate led the team to another seriously at-risk RPC inmate whose story is also told as part of the broadcast.

Hana Gartner takes a look at the troubled life that Ashley Smith led behind bars and the sad circumstances surrounding her death.