Young inmate dead, three prison workers charged

Union says staff did all they could to save inmate's life

Three prison workers have been charged with criminal negligence in connection with the apparent suicide of a 19-year-old inmate at a Kitchener, Ont., prison for women.

Investigators say Ashley Smith, who was in her fourth year of a six-year sentence for various offences committed as a youth, died of self-initiated asphyxiation on Oct. 26.

Karen Eves, Valentino Burnett and Blaine Phibbs, employees of the Grand Valley Institution for Women, have been charged with criminal negligence causing death under a section of the Criminal Code that relates to "omitting to do anything that is his (or her) duty to do, shows wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of other persons."

Several other employees, including a supervisor, have been suspended without pay.

The president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers - Grand Valley local, Fernando Aziz, said the suspensions and charges are unsubstantiated and the staff acted professionally. They did everything they could to save Smith's life, including performing CPR, he said.

Correctional Services Canada will investigate, as will the union, and a coroner's inquest will be held.

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