Deputy warden blames boss for hassling guards about entering teen’s cell


TORONTO – A former senior prison manager testified Wednesday to writing a flurry of memos critical of guards for rushing into the cell of a teenager to cut ligatures from her neck.

In often halting testimony, Joanna Pauline said the memos were sent to middle managers at the behest of the warden, Cindy Berry, in the months before Ashley Smith choked herself to death as guards stood by.

“(Berry) was teaching me we didn’t have the authority to intervene and cut the ligature off, because she wasn’t in medical distress,” Pauline testified in coroner’s court.

“I thought they (the guards) were equipped to be diagnosing it (the distress).”

Pauline, the deputy warden, denied giving any orders to guards to stay out of Smith’s cell as long as the inmate was still breathing.

In an email to Pauline in August 2007 when Smith returned to Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., for a second stint, Berry told her the prison would be “under a great deal of scrutiny.”

Pauline admitted asking for changes in reports on guards’ frequent interventions with Smith so as “not to alarm” national headquarters.

Once again, she said it was on orders from Berry, who took over as warden in the summer of 2007.

“Why was there a concern about alarming NHQ? If the truth would alarm them, shouldn’t they just be alarmed?” coroner’s counsel Jocelyn Speyer asked.

“Yes, I don’t know why,” Pauline responded.

“I just know there was this constant feeling we were being questioned.”

She did say she believed the number of incidents in which guards used force on the inmate were considered a “performance measure” for the prison’s management.

Pauline described an institution under dire stress in the weeks before Smith died Oct. 19, 2007.

She blamed severe understaffing, management changes, and the inordinate difficulty in dealing with the disturbed inmate, who showed ingenuity in fashioning and hiding ligatures, and was on constant suicide watch.

“Nobody knew the role, and the workload was growing exponentially,” she said. “I was feeling absolutely overwhelmed.”

On the stand, Pauline displayed little of the self-described “dynamic and energetic individual” of her resume.

She frequently said she could not remember events, such as whether there were any management discussions about the cell-entry issue. She said she was unaware of any orders given to guards about when to enter Smith’s cell.

Pauline also said she could barely remember meeting Smith in person, their conversations, or even whether the teen was polite.

She was unable to remember reports describing Smith as clearly showing the effects of suffocation, or tell coroner’s counsel much about the self-harming behaviour.

“I think it was ligature use and head banging,” she said.

She did say she was told Smith was simply badly behaved rather than mentally ill, and believed guards were not to reward her by showing warmth if the prisoner was acting out.

At the time of her death, senior management had sent 38 memos warning guards against unnecessary interventions. Disciplinary action against several of them was scrapped after Smith died.

Pauline testified about her fractured relationship with Berry, who cut her out of management meetings and called her an “administrative assistant” with no vision for the institution.

“I found that quite disrespectful of me,” Pauline said.

Previous witnesses have been fiercely critical of Pauline and her approach to the handling of Smith, 19, of Moncton, N.B., who was becoming increasingly prone to self-harming.

In June, the chief prison’s psychologist, Cindy Lanigan, testified Pauline ordered her to change recommendations on keeping Smith safe, and badgered and denigrated underlings constantly in a “reign of terror.”

Still, Pauline can be heard lending a sympathetic ear to frustrated middle managers in several audio recordings played for the inquest into Smith’s death.

She said she now considers her assessment of staff conduct was in error.

“Sometimes, I wish I would have pieced together what was going on,” she said.

Pauline is slated to continue testifying Thursday.

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Deputy warden blames boss for hassling guards about entering teen’s cell

  1. How do we end up hiring such incompetent people and paying them so much money? Joanna Pauline sounds like her competence would have been taxed pouring coffee at Timmies.

    • Politically Correct policies that protect so-called ‘rights’ of prisoners outweigh common sense.

      Blame the Supreme Court and the Charter for that nonsense, not the overworked staff.

      • The woman sounds clueless on the stand. That’s not the fault of human rights, the Supreme Court or the Charter. If you’re not a fan of humans having rights you picked the wrong country to be born in but as you know we don’t force people to stay. The old Soviet Union might have been more to your liking due to their disregard for human rights but then again they actually did force people to stay. You should really shop around. I’m sure there’s a dictator more to your liking somewhere on the planet. Harper tried to be one but he was as incompetent at that as he in economics and sadly for you we’re kicking him to the curb in 2015.

        • If we construct our laws to make it a ‘right’ to endanger your own life, then those same laws should not be picking on those who follow their precepts.

          We can either ban all interventions to save this fool’s life, or we allow the staff to intervene effectively to save her life from her own foolishness.

          But to ban effective intervention and then complain that there wasn’t effective intervention oozes hypocrisy.

  2. An ounce of prevention is said to be worth a pound of cure.

    The staff should have been doing regular and frequent cavity searches to ensure she could not conceal materials for self injury.

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