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Lawyer asks if sleep deprivation was part of Ashley Smith’s punishment

The Ashley Smith inquest resumed today with an assistant warden denying authorities spruced up the cell where the troubled teen died.

Tony Simoes denied the spartan segregation cell Smith lived and died in five years ago had been painted specially for a jury visit last week.

Lawyer Julian Falconer noted there were no differences between the cells that housed mentally-ill inmates and others. He also pointed out the steel cot in the segregation cell, and asked whether authorities use sleep deprivation as punishment.

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Mr. Simoes said he couldn't comment because it wasn't his area of expertise.

Ms. Smith strangled herself in the isolation cell at the Grand Valley Institution, in Kitchener, Ont., in October 2007. Mr. Simoes, the prison official who led jurors on a tour of the facility last week, described photographs of the segregation cells, including the one in which Smith died.

Julian Falconer, the family lawyer, suggested the steel cot in the cell would have been uncomfortable for anyone to sleep on. "There can be legitimate security reasons for making people sleep on metal?" Falconer asked. "Is sleep deprivation part of CSC (Correctional Service of Canada) punishment?"

"I cannot comment on that," Mr. Simoes responded.

"You don't know?"

Mr. Simoes, in charge of the physical structure of the prison, said he had never slept on one of the cots, and said he didn't know enough to speak to the sleep-deprivation suggestion.

Jurors also saw pictures of the segregation exercise yard, a drab, barren concrete slab of about three metres by 10.5 metres surrounded by high razor-wire topped walls. The rules are segregation inmates get one hour of exercise in the recreation yard, Mr. Simoes said.

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"The term 'yard' is much like the term 'bed,' isn't it?" Falconer asked.

Smith was admitted directly to the segregation unit on Aug 31, 2007. With the exception of a few hospital visits, she remained in isolation until she choked to death on Oct. 19, 2007.

Mr. Falconer pressed Mr. Simoes to concede there are no special cells for mentally ill inmates.

"There are other spaces in the prison," Mr. Simoes said.

"But Ashley never saw those spaces," Mr. Falconer rejoined.

Mr. Falconer also pointed to photographs that showed clearly visible paint stains and other defects on the cell walls.

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"If you're inferring that we painted it just before you came, that's incorrect," Mr. Simoes said.

Mr. Simoes also said prison policy is that only women guards can monitor surveillance cameras of female inmates.

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