Everyone makes mistakes in their lives, but that doesn’t mean that they have to pay for them for the rest of their lives. Sometimes good people make bad choices. It doesn’t mean that they’re bad people… it means that they’re HUMAN.
I’m a mom of teenage children.
I’m watching them grow up.
I’m watching them head out into the world.
I’m watching them make their own decisions.
And I’m hoping they’re going down the right path.
But kids will be kids.
They like to test their boundaries.
I mean, don’t we all have a few crazy stories to tell from our own teenage days?
So when I read this story in the Globe and Mail last week, a story about a child who ended up on the wrong side of the law, it scared the crap out of me.
At the tender age of 15, Ashley Smith ended up in the New Brunswick Youth Center after chucking crab apples at a Moncton mail carrier while she was on probation for a string of other nuisance-related offences.
She had no idea that the month-long sentence in youth jail would turn into six years, one month and 17 days.
Eventually, she managed to escape her many prison transfers and incredibly long stints of solitary confinement by taking her own life. And she did so while the very guards that were put there to protect her watched on and did nothing to prevent it.
Even more disturbing, they were instructed to only enter her segregation cell when she stopped breathing.
How could this happen?
She was just a child.
A troubled child – yes! There is no doubt that she needed help.
She needed structure and assistance and stability to help get her back on track.
Instead she was viewed as a nuisance, as a troublemaker and as uncontrollable.
I don’t know much about the criminal justice system, but it would appear that it failed Ashley miserably.
She didn’t get better in jail.
She got worse.
Now a coroner’s inquest is revisiting her final days, questioning the very people who were supposed to protect her.
Our government needs to take action and provide more help to youth with mental illness.
Let’s hope we see a positive change in our criminal justice system.
Ashley deserved a helping hand.
She deserved to have someone stand up for her.
She deserved to be given the opportunity to turn her life around.
She didn’t deserve to die.