Grand Valley Institution inmate, 30, dies after being found unresponsive in cell

A 30-year-old inmate at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., has died after she was found unresponsive in her cell on Monday.

Terry Baker had been serving a sentence for 1st-degree murder since January 2006

An inmate from Grand Valley Institution has died after being found unresponsive in her cell, according to the Correctional Service of Canada. (Colin Perkel/Canadian Press)

A 30-year-old inmate at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont., has died after she was found unresponsive in her cell on Monday evening.

According to a statement from Corrections Canada, Terry Baker was found by staff, who started performing CPR immediately and called emergency services.

"We don't have a lot of information; the fact that she was in segregation is of significant concern," Kim Pate, with the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, told CBC News. 

It's a tragedy all around and it's a travesty, and it should not be happening in this country.- Kim Pate, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Pate said that regional advocates for the society had expressed concerns about Baker, citing "significant mental health issues."

Pate said Baker had been in segregation and had attempted suicide on Monday night. Baker had been on suicide watch at some point during the past few weeks, according to Pate.

"We know that she was in restraints a number of times; we suspect there were uses of force, but we don't know that for certain and we have asked the correctional investigator to also look into it," said Pate. 

Pate said she was told that Baker was placed in segregation because she had threatened staff. She was found Monday night "with apparently a ligature around her neck."

Baker was taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Kitchener, but was pronounced dead at 12:06 p.m. Wednesday. 

"It's a terrible tragedy for her family, her friends, the women she served time with," said Pate.

"It's a tragedy all around and it's a travesty, and it should not be happening in this country. It needs to stop. I hope the minister pays attention to this and makes a decision very quickly to end the use of segregation."

"Terry was a very sweet, gentle young woman except when it came to herself. She had been very self-destructive and self-harming for a number of years," said Pate. "She's someone who, when I last saw her in Saskatchewan, she was actually doing quite well. She was involved in a dog therapy program.

"From our perspective, [this] underscores exactly why we have the position of no women in segregation, particularly those with mental health issues," said Pate.

Pate said that Baker had asked to donate her organs if she ever died, and thought that Baker had been kept on life-support since Monday in order to harvest her organs.

Baker would have turned 31 on July 15, said Pate. 

Echoes of Ashley Smith

"We've known [Baker] since she came into the system through the youth system, very similar to too many women, including Ashley Smith. And for many years, we have been extremely concerned that she needs to be out of the system," said Pate.

Smith was 19 when she died in a segregated prison cell in the same facility in 2007. An Ontario coroner's jury ruled that Smith's self-inflicted death in her cell was a homicide.

"The question I have is why, why after all these years, after so many deaths, after so many tragedies are we still putting women into segregation, are we still dealing with now the aftermath of someone having died when we know so much about what can prevent these situations," said Pate.

According to the Corrections Canada statement, Baker had been serving a sentence for first-degree murder since January 2006. Her next of kin have been notified.

A spokesman for the correctional service said the circumstances surrounding Baker's death will be investigated.

"A tremendous amount of work was undertaken with this inmate, including by mental health professionals and front-line staff, and there have been many interventions with her over the past few months‎," Kyle Lawlor stated in an email. "While I am unable to provide details of the incident, I can say ‎at the time of the incident, staff ‎took immediate action and CPR was performed."

Police and the coroner have also been notified.

With files from Alison Crawford