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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Tasers now banned in New Brunswick's youth jails

June 11, 2008
Canwest News Service

FREDERICTON - A day after rejecting the notion of banning the use of Tasers on youths in custody, the New Brunswick government has reversed itself and banned guards from using the weapons in its youth detention centres.

New Brunswick Public Safety Minister John Foran announced the about-face after receiving a report from Bernard Richard, the provincial ombudsman and child and youth advocate, on the custody and subsequent death of a New Brunswick teenager while in an Ontario prison.

Richard told Canwest News Service he was appalled to learn Ashley Smith was hit by a Taser at least twice while in custody at the New Brunswick Youth Detention Centre.

Smith, 19, was found unconscious in her cell at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont. in 2007. She died in hospital of what police called "self-initiated asphyxiation."

Richard called for an immediate halt to the practice of using Tasers on youths in his report, which investigated mental health services for young people in conflict with the law.

Richard made sweeping recommendations to change youth jails in the province, including calling for the changes to the way jails use segregation cells. He also called for mentally ill youths to be treated in clinical settings rather than jails.

Foran said a committee will look at Richard's recommendations and said the government is not flip-flopping on the Taser issue, but making changes as more of the report is considered.

Stun guns will continue to be used in adult jails.

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