Ashley Smith Death Ruled a Homicide


The death of Ashley Smith, whose life and death is chronicled in Don Weitz’s Mad in America article How Canada’s Prisons Killed Ashley Smith: A National Crime and Shame, has been ruled a homicide by a Canadian inquest jury.  Videotapes of Smith’s treatment, which Canada’s correctional service had fought to exclude from evidence, showed her being duct-taped to her seat and guards in riot gear restraining and injecting her.

Article →Of further interest:
Ashley Smith: Verdict a chance to rethink how prisoners with mental illness are dealt with (The Star)

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. A most welcome headline (“Ashley Smith Death Ruled a Homicide”).

    I’m glad to see it, but I don’t dare follow the link to the story, as I literally cannot process any more misery, of this kind, right now. (Such an incredibly tragic story, of psychiatry run amok, in a prison setting… documented with hair-raising video footage.)

    Hopefully, the verdict stands, and it leads to the exposure of more crimes, of the same kind; for, this was not an isolated incident.

    Many are being destroyed in psychiatric prisons. (E.g., Google “John Hunt” + “psychiatry”.)

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  2. I’m Canadian and this story was a horror show from start to finish.

    She was put in jail because she threw apples at a postal worker and had defiant behaviour and she wouldn’t stop or change.

    A very important case that shows the dangers of a system that is out of touch, and out of time.

    I would caution anyone from watching the videos. It’s hard. She had the sweetest little girl voice. I am deeply ashamed of what happened to her and all the others like her that have gone before, and since.

    I didn’t think I lived in this Canada, I know better now.

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  3. Sadists have sought out jobs as prison guards for centuries. Good luck finding anyone that will speak up when viscous crimes are committed by staff against other human beings.

    What is it that drives these psychopaths to seek careers in as a prison guard?

    First you have to understand what a true psychopath is. It is a person who has no conscience, no sense of right or wrong, no guilt, shame, empathy, or anything within the usual set of characteristics that make one human. They are drawn to occupations where they have power over others. To get others in a position where there are no witnesses, and in a setting where the psychopath seemingly has near unquestionable credibility. Once the victims are thrown into this scenario, the psychopaths are free to inflict any means of torture and abuse they want until they get their psychological ‘high’.

    This verdict will not change that.

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    • Copy,

      I agree with most of what you’re saying here.

      However, I question your conclusion.

      You state, at last,

      “Once the victims are thrown into this scenario, the psychopaths are free to inflict any means of torture and abuse they want until they get their psychological ‘high’.

      This verdict will not change that.”

      There, I disagree.

      First, I believe this case and its guilty verdict can go quite a long way, toward raising consciousness, through serious discussions that offer compelling critiques (such as yours) of the inherent flaw, in any and all behavioral control systems, which are founded upon the view that some people (deemed “mentally ill” and/or “mentally disordered”) supposedly benefit from being provided forced psychiatric ‘treatment’; the notion that such ‘treatment’ is a proper response to being rebellious, must be widely scrutinized. This case will help bring such scrutiny… as hat paradigm, of medical-coercive psychiatry, must go, of course.

      It must be shunned and ridiculed, exposed for the utterly complete travesty of justice, which it is…

      And, from that point of view, more specifically, this case (with its guilty verdict) can surely assist, in the cause of putting an end, to the medical ‘treatment’ of teenage rebellion.

      Moreover, this case, with its guilty verdict, demonstrates the need for putting more video cameras in all settings where people are being imprisoned — especially, including all psychiatric prisons and so-called “hospitals,” where “patients” are “treated” against their will.

      Some people balk at the idea of having more video cameras anywhere, because there are already so many of them (seemingly everywhere).

      But, it is absolutely the right thing, to bring such technology (and MUCH of it) into prison settings (and, really, into more than just prisons… truly, into all places where people are held captive by government authorized authorities, including psychiatric so-called “inpatient” settings).

      As long as such places exist, they should be equipped with 24/7 video surveillance, of any areas which might be, otherwise, attractive to those who are inclined to prey on the weak and the vulnerable…

      More video cameras operating 24/7 in such settings — many more, will be a great improvement.

      After all (you well realize), sadists cannot possibly do their thing, when they’re being publicly scrutinized.

      More video cameras — many more — in such settings…

      I do believe that this story (of Ashley Smith’s tragic fate) shall help, toward realizing that end.

      The honest guards and other honest workers in such settings will not object to having more video cameras around. They will welcome it — especially, because video cameras can protect them against any false claims of abuse.

      Some (few) inmates may object (and, some “involuntary patients” may complain of feeling quite uncomfortable, having more video cameras around); but, I suspect, that, most people in these setting will well realize the good in having them installed, in great numbers…



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