Fired Ashley Smith warden back at CSC

The prison warden who was fired after Ashley Smith’s death is back working for the Correctional Service of Canada, Global News has learned.

Cindy Berry was acting warden when 19-year-old Smith choked herself to death on Oct. 19, 2007, at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont.

After Berry’s dismissal, a Conservative spokesman said in 2009 accountability and disciplinary action had been taken.

But it turns out Berry has been employed as a senior project officer at CSC’s Ontario regional headquarters in Kingston, Ont since June 2012.

Corrections officials would not answer questions about why Berry was brought back.

“For privacy reasons, the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) cannot comment on the circumstances or specific details of the employment of any individual,” spokeswoman Veronique Rioux said in an email.

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Calls to Berry’s office were not returned.

Berry is the latest example of what advocates say is a lack of accountability at CSC following Smith’s death.

“I think it sends a terrible message, that there is a double standard,” said Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association Elizabeth Fry Societies, who works with incarcerated women and knew Smith well.

“The message it sends to every prisoner, is that you are being held accountable for breaching the law… but those in whose custody, care and control you are, apparently don’t have the same level of accountability.”

Pate said the system needs judicial oversight to hold corrections accountable and require them to take action.

Berry was one of 12 people fired or disciplined following Smith’s death – none of them high-ranking officials within the CSC.

A Global News investigation shows some senior prison officials have seen their careers continue and even flourish since Smith’s death more than five years ago, while others have retired.

Examples include:

– Don Head, promoted from senior deputy commissioner to CSC commissioner in 2008. He still runs the country’s prison system today.

– Johanne Vallee, who was deputy commissioner for women at the time of Smith’s death, has since moved on to become regional deputy commissioner in Quebec.

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– Nancy Stableford, regional deputy commissioner for Ontario during Smith’s incarceration, who has since retired.

Global News sent multiple requests to speak to Head, Vallee and Stableford, but has not received a response.

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In his 2008 report on Smith’s death, Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers said most senior staff within CSC, including the commissioner, were aware of Smith’s ongoing self-injury.

While he did not mention Berry by name in the report, Sapers said the acting warden told both the Ontario regional deputy commissioner and deputy commissioner for women about the challenges of managing Smith in prison.

Berry was one of six people fired following Smith’s death, which included the deputy warden, three correctional officers and a manager.

But three of the four correctional workers – who originally faced charges after Smith’s death – are back on the job. The other officer was allowed to resign.

The charges against the officers were dropped after the Crown discovered CSC failed to disclose critical material about the orders the accused were given.

Six other employees who were suspended, docked pay or reprimanded have all had their punishments reduced.

Smith, originally incarcerated as a youth for throwing crab apples at a postal worker, was transferred 17 times during her 11 months in prison. She spent much of her time in segregation and video footage also showed Smith being forcibly restrained and injected with medication against her will. On the day she died, Smith was under suicide watch as guards stood outside her cell watching her.

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An Ontario coroner’s inquest into Smith’s death began in January, and is set to resume on March 25.

It is expected to last at least six months and hear from up to 100 witnesses.

So far, the inquest has heard from guards who testified that they were given instructions shortly before Smith’s death not to enter her cell if she was breathing.

Another officer testified Berry had scolded him for showing “warmth” to Smith, which amounted to human interaction.

“She was a hot potato, a hot potato being bounced around at the national level,” said lawyer Julian Falconer, who is representing Smith’s family at the inquest.

A spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, the minister responsible for CSC, said in a statement “this is a very sad case and our thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Smith’s family.”

“The government directed Corrections Canada to fully cooperate with the coroner’s inquest. Our government takes the issue of mental health in prison very seriously.  That’s why we have taken action to improve access to mental health treatment.”

But NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison said some policies for mentally ill inmates have not yet been implemented.

“I am concerned when we focus on the discipline of the employees, when in fact the minister and the head of corrections did not have adequate policies in place to deal with people with mental illness,” he said.

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“What is it that people were asked to do? If they’re trying to do their best to do the job in the conditions they’re given, then I’m not sure that’s a question of discipline, that’s a question of government policy and resources to treating people with mental health issues in our prisons.”

In his report Sapers found that CSC failed to provide “an acceptable level of humane professional care and treatment” to Smith while she was in its custody.

He said senior executives at CSC national headquarters and regional headquarters closely review the daily situation reports which outline significant incidents in federal prisons.

“Yet, there is little evidence that anyone beyond the institutional level effectively intervened before Ms. Smith died.”

The following is a list of officials in senior positions at the CSC and in the federal government at the time of Ashley Smith’s incarceration, death, and aftermath. This information is publicly available and compiled by Global News.

NameOctober 2006During incarcerationOctober 2007Post incarcerationCurrent
Ian McCowanAssistant Commissioner,
Policy Sector CSC (July 2006)
Asst. CmsrAsst. CmsrAsst. CmsrAssistant Secretary,
Communications and Consultations,
Privy Council Office (Feb 20, 2012)
Chris PriceActing Director General, Security NHQ
CSC (2006)
DG – SecurityDG – SecurityAssistant Commissioner, Correctional
Operations and Programs CSC (June
8, 2009)
Retirement (Sept. 30, 2012)
Nancy StableforthRegional Deputy Commissioner,
RDC – OnRDC – OnAssistant Commissioner, Health Services
(Sept. 6, 2011)Transformation Advisor (Aug 5, 2008)
Retirement – Feb 15, 2013
Therese LeblancAssistant Deputy Commissioner,
Institution Operation, ON
region (Dec 2006)
ADCIODeputy Commissioner for Women
(April 14, 2008)
Regional Deputy Commissioner,
Atlantic (Oct 2008)
Lori MacDonaldActing Deputy Commissioner for Women
(Aug. 28, 2006-March 10, 2007)
DCFWAssistant Commissioner,
Communications and Citizen
Assistant Deputy Commissioner,
Institutional operations, On (Jan 11, 2010)
Regional Deputy Commissioner,
Ontario (Feb 2012)
Ross TollerAssistant Commissioner, Correctional
Operations and Programs CSC
Johanne ValleeQuebec Provincial CourtDeputy Commissioner for Women
(March 12, 2007)
DCWRegional Deputy Commissioner, Quebec
(April 1, 2009)
Regional Deputy Commissioner, Quebec
Simon CoakeleyRegional Deputy Commissioner – AtlanticAssistant Commissioner Human Resources Management Sept. 2003-Sept. 10, 2007Executive Director, Immigration
and Refugee
Board of Canada
Keith CoulterCommissioner ofCorrections (2005)CommissionerCommissionerSpecial Advisor to Minister of
Veteran’s Affairs (Oct 20, 2009)
External Member Privy Council Office
Audit Committee (June 28, 2009)
Cheryl FraserAssistant Commissioner,
Human Resources, CSC(December 2006)
Assistant Commissioner, Human
Resources Canada Revenue Agency
(Sept 14, 2009)
Don HeadSenior Deputy Commissioner,
SDCSDCCommissioner of Corrections
(July 2008)

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