Ashley Smith's Mother Hopeful Inquest Will Improve System
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Ashley Smith's mother says she's hopeful the inquest into her daughter's death in a Kitchener, Ont. prison will result in more transparency and improvements in Canada's correctional system.


The mother of a teenager who killed herself in her prison cell choked back tears as she recalled how years of segregation appeared to diminish her daughter.In a harrowing account of the last time she saw her daughter alive, Coralee Smith described her shock at Ashley's appearance during the visit in the summer of 2007."Oh, mom, my skin is all loose," Ashley told Smith through the Plexiglas screen that separated them."She was not a 19-year-old girl at that point; she was aged," an emotional Smith told an inquest jury. "She was a lot smaller."Four guards at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, N.S., had brought Ashley into the interview room, her mom recounted.She was in handcuffs, shackles and dressed in a security gown aimed at preventing suicides. Her hair looked dirty.Ashley had difficulty seeing out of it an injured eye — damage apparently from choking herself by tying ligatures around her neck."When you come home, we'll take you to an optometrist," Smith told her daughter.Smith, 65, of Moncton, N.B., who travelled extensively to visit her daughter, said she never knew about Ashley's self-harming behaviour or lengthy segregation stints.Asked what they talked about, Smith said "coming home."At the end of the visit, Smith put her hand to the screen but Ashley — an afraid-of-the-dark homebody who normally liked to hold hands — appeared reluctant to follow suit."I watched them take her down the hall," Smith said. "It was the last time I saw Ashley alive."