The Ashley case turned out to be an outspoken case on inhumane treatment of Canadian mental case inmates after she committed suicide in one of the confinements in attempts to attract attention to the institution’s management. She threw a crab to a mails courier while at 14 years of age and was imprisoned for five years with multiple relocation of charges, which saw her serve her sentences at different institutions in the country.


The investigation into the case revealed that in the five years of her imprisonment, she suffered multiple violations to human rights, which included physical abuse, forced medical injections, having duct tape, hooded as well as physical harassment through being sprayed with pepper. As Moore reports, Ashley chocked to death while in prison after the seniors instructed the wardens on duty not to help her. Nevertheless, when investigations commenced on the cause of the inmate’s death, the report shows how the institution avoided accepting the facts of its negligence in handling inmates and this reveals the inhuman spirit dominating the penal system in Canada. The influence of the system comes in even during investigations where initial efforts to investigate the matter are halted prematurely on arguments of controversies and interference. The lawyers of the institutions in many instances motioned the blocking of exhibits presented before the court revealing Ashley speaking. However, this case is not in isolation as the recent past has seen a number of such cases being investigated in the country. This was confirmed by a report by Mr Saper who pointed out to grievous inadequacies over the entire penal system dealing with mental health cases of inmates. He argues that the systems cultivate lawlessness as well as disregard to rights of inmates. For instance, Julie Bilotta is said to have given birth in 2002 in a prison after the prison wardens failed to heed to her call on labor. This in brief reveals how corrupt the system of justice in Canada perpetrates violations to human rights under the coverage of purporting to instill justice and corrective measures within the nation (Moore, 2013).

The mental health functioning in the Canadian prisons is poorly acknowledged as shown by the physical conditions in which the inmates are confined. For instance, deprivation of necessities, isolation from fellow inmates as well as the physical separation from close relations and family are not appropriate conditions to have the mentally ill inmates subjected to. Besides, the prison facilities are often overcrowded, stressful, violent, unpredictable, restrictive and in instances very noisy, conditions that would worsen the cases of mental illnesses for the inmates. Moreover, some of the facilities are reportedly out of service and fails to have appropriate facilities to respond in therapy of such mental cases. It is also shown from the case of Ashley that the prison staff, who are expected to be professional fail in delivery of service to the inmates and create about conflicts of interest. Such conflicting objectives create dilemmas such as treatment versus security, patients versus inmates, control versus assistance as well as hospital versus prison, which are all basic tenets to be taken care of for the sake of effectiveness in handling inmates for correctional purposes (Sapers, 2011).

The foregoing discussion shows inadequacies with the CSC (Correctional Service of Canada) to handle the ever-increasing cases of mentally ill inmates confined within the state’s prison facilities. Through the system shows increased efforts towards reforming the correctional service in Canada, the cases shown above reveals high need to have the reforms for effectiveness and efficiency. Besides, reports show increased number of such cases of suicide of inmates with mental illnesses in the recent past (Perkel, 2013). For instance, the case of Ashley as have been in discussions over a long period shows that there are conflicts of interests between the management and the service delivery towards inmates. Ashley’s death occurred amidst her appeals for help from the prison wardens but who had received an instruction not to attend to her. It should be understood that responding to mental illness needs for inmates is a technical process, which requires special skills and physical facilities. Julie Bilotta’s case shows that the system fails to have appropriate mechanisms to attend to such emergencies, which are expected within confinements of inmates. The wardens on duty overlooked Bilotta’s calls on labor and this shows the increased conflict of interest between human rights as well as corrective systems. It is the responsibility of the prison system to ensure safety and security to inmates, regardless of their physical conditions. Security and safety in this case implies shield against physical torture or mistreatment by the authorities in the prison as well as assurance on matters of health and good living conditions. This insinuates the incorporation of human rights in corrective system in Canada as represented by CSC (Correctional Service of Canada) is poor and as such would need to be addressed. Besides, prisoners are equal human beings and are therefore entitled to such rights as security, food, housing, health, legal aid/representation as well as rights to interactions with other people (though to some restrictions as deemed right by authorities) (“Prisoner’s Rights”,nd).

Women form the most misunderstood and neglected segment in systems of justice and according to the relational psychology as applied in psychologists, women’s offending behavior may result from violations of their rights (Covington, 1998). The case of Ashley’s death reveals offending behavior by the inmate towards the warden, which would be explained through the rational. This therefore is evidence that the CSC has not taken the rational into account while handling the women inmates especially the mentally ill ones.


Effective management of social vices from mental illnesses requires early detection and intervention through such means as medical care right from the society and not necessarily through incarceration. Nevertheless, the inter-sectoral disciplinary agencies and organizations within the justice system need a national strategy, which would coordinate such efforts towards confinement of mentally ill inmates. The strategy would ensure integrity in coordination as well as integration of services accorded to such inmates. The country needs to address such issues that result to stress and in the event raises levels of vulnerability of persons to criminal justice system. This means that a national system to address cases of vulnerability such as drugs and substance use, social marginalization and exclusion among other factors is necessary to aid in management of prison and such correction facilities in the nation.


Covington S. S., (1998). Women in Prison: Approaches in the Treatment of Our Most Invisible Population. Women and Therapy Journal, 21(1): 141-155

Moore D., (2013). Ashley Smith case: Time to end ‘the ugly spirit of our penal system’ Retrieved from

“Prisoner’s Rights”,(nd). Prisoner’s Rights. Retrieved from HYPERLINK “”

Perkel C., (2013). Ashley Smith inquest: Gaps persist in managing mentally ill prisoners. Retrieved from HYPERLINK “”

Sapers H., (2011). Mental Health and Corrections. . Retrieved from