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Ashley Smith's family settles wrongful-death lawsuit

A handout photo of Ashley Smith, 19, who died October 19, 2007 in an apparent suicide at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.

HO/The Canadian Press

The family of a mentally ill teenager who died in her prison cell has settled its wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government.

"The matter was settled to the satisfaction of all parties," said Julian Falconer, the lawyer for Coralee Smith, the mother of Ashley Smith.

Citing a confidentiality clause, Mr. Falconer would not reveal the terms of the deal, which was reached in April. The family's lawsuit claimed damages of $11-million.

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Ashley Smith, 19, died with strip of cloth around her neck on the floor of her segregation cell at Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., on Oct. 19, 2007.

"This lawsuit was brought by the family to hold Correctional Services accountable for all of the inhumane and appalling conditions Ashley Smith was kept in," Mr. Falconer said. "This lawsuit was very much about a conspiracy of senior correctional management to leave a young, mentally ill teen in isolation without help and ultimately without the most basic of human needs."

The lawsuit, which named several defendants, noted that Ms. Smith was transferred 17 times in the year she spent in federal custody and often tried to harm herself.

At the time of her death, guards were under orders not to intervene unless she had stopped breathing.

A report for the Correctional Services Canada concluded that Ms. Smith had been desperately seeking attention and sensory stimulation after being systematically moved from isolation cells. Her use of ligatures, the report found, was designed to draw staff into her cell to rescue her.

On Ontario coroner's inquest into Ms. Smith's death is scheduled to start on May 16.

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