A woman has died after being found “unresponsive” at the same
Ontario prison where Ashley Smith died in 2007.
KITCHENER, ONT.—Correctional Service Canada says a woman serving a sentence
for first-degree murder has died after being found “unresponsive” at the
same Ontario prison where Ashley Smith died in 2007, sparking a national
debate on the use of solitary confinement.
CSC says Terry Baker was found unresponsive in her cell at the Grand Valley
Institution in Kitchener on Monday.
Staff members performed CPR and Baker was taken to a local hospital where
she was pronounced dead on Wednesday. The Grand Valley Institution didn’t
immediately return messages seeking information on how Baker died.
Grand Valley is the same institution where Smith killed herself in 2007. In
2013, Smith’s death was ruled a homicide, after a coroner’s inquest. A
review from the federal corrections watchdog found that corrections staff
failed to respond to Smith’s needs, and that inaction cost Smith her life.
Baker, 30, had been serving an indeterminate sentence since Jan. 12, 2006.
As in all cases involving the death of an inmate, the police and the coroner
have been notified, and Correctional Service Canada says it will review the
circumstances of the incident.
Kim Pate, CEO of Elizabeth Fry Society, an advocacy group for incarcerated
women, compared Baker’s death to that of Smith, saying Baker was in solitary
confinement at the time of her death. Neither CSC nor Grand Valley would
immediately confirm Pate’s claim.
The use of solitary confinement is one parallel between Baker and Smith’s
death, said Pate.
According to Pate, Baker died in segregation. “She should have been in the
care of non-corrections mental health,” Pate said.
She described Baker as very childlike, and loving towards others and
animals. Pate said Baker even donated her organs.
A woman of the same name, same age, and same time of sentencing, was serving
life in prison for murder, the Star’s records show. It couldn’t immediately
be confirmed whether it was the same Terry Baker who died this week.
After her arrest in 2002, a woman named Terry Baker pled guilty to
first-degree murder in the torture and sex slaying of 16-year-old Robbie
McLennan, just days after his birthday.
Baker — then 16 years old — helped her boyfriend William Bronson Penasse,
then 21, sexually assault, beat, burn, and stone McLennan. She was sentenced
to life in prison.
It was a “vicious, senseless and brutal” crime, said Justice Bruce Durno at
the trial in 2006, an attack “rarely seen in criminal courts.”
“Her crime was monstrous, but she isn’t a monster,” said Owen Wigderson,
Baker’s lawyer, at the time. According to previous Star stories, Wigderson
told the court that Baker had repeatedly attempted suicide while in custody.
A minor at the time of the crime, Baker’s identity was initially under a
publication ban, which was lifted in 2006 after she received an adult
sentence for the crime.
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
The use of "solitary" is an expression that most readers do not and cannot
comprehend as to the level of torture that it implies.
Solitary is the name they give for ONE prisoner in one cell. When they put
TWO or more prisoners in the Same Space, it suddenly does not qualify as the
same inhuman conditions.
More often than not, prisoners in "segregation" would prefer to be by
themselves with more "space" than locked up with a member of the worst of
the worst of society.
For these terrible state of affairs, we can thank the decades of Liberals
and conservative ministers who consecutively turn a blind eye, that
continues to this day.
Ottawa Mens Centre