02/04/2014 02:24 EST | Updated 04/06/2014 05:59 EDT

Corrections Canada won't respond to reports, watchdog says

Canada's prison watchdog says he can't do his job properly if the Correctional Service of Canada won't respond to his reports.

Correctional Investigator Howard Sapers said since last spring the CSC has not said whether it supports or rejects any of the recommendations included in three of his most recent reports.

"It's very hard for me to be accountable to Parliament for my mandate when the Correctional Service of Canada does not respond," Sapers told CBC News.

On June 28, 2013, as has been tradition, Sapers sent an advance copy of his annual report to CSC and the minister of public safety so the service's responses could be included with his report when it was tabled in Parliament.

"We were informed that the Correctional Service of Canada would not be giving its responses to our recommendations to us in time for tabling. We were told that a separate response would be forthcoming," Sapers said.

In his report, Sapers detailed concerns about conditions of confinement, access to health care and programs, as well as issues specific to mentally ill inmates, aboriginal offenders and federally sentenced women and other issues.

The document was tabled in Parliament in November. Sapers said CSC has yet to respond.

Sapers said he's also waiting for CSC to comment on his study on the treatment and management of chronic self-injury among female inmates, which was released last September.

This month, the Office of the Correctional Investigator will release a report on how CSC reviews inmate deaths.

An advance copy was sent to CSC last year with a request to respond by Jan. 10, 2014. So far, Sapers said, he hasn't heard a peep.

"I can't do my job properly unless I get a response," he said. "Now, the response could be that the recommendation is not accepted. The response could be that we've made a mistake, and so be it. But no response is inappropriate."

Response in 'due course'

Last month Sapers took his concerns to Steve Blaney, the minister of public safety. Sapers said Blaney agreed it is important to have timely responses from CSC.

When contacted by CBC News, Blaney's spokesperson referred all questions to the correctional service. The CSC didn't answer most of them and a spokesperson refused CBC's request for an interview. "CSC gives full consideration to all recommendations from the OCI. CSC's official response will be released in due course and will be posted on CSC's website."

Kelly Hannah-Moffat, director of the centre for criminology and sociolegal studies at the University of Toronto, said the pattern of non-response from CSC raises red flags.

"It certainly weakens our capacity to ensure that we have a correctional system that is in compliance with the rule of law."

Hannah-Moffat said it reflects a lack of transparency and accountability as well as "a growing tendency for them to look inwards for solutions as opposed to drawing on expertise and best practices of professionals outside of their organization."

NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison said the way he sees it, safe and effective rehabilitation of offenders doesn't top the government's to-do list.

"The Conservatives seem determined to make cutting budgets their number 1 priority and putting more people in jail at the same time."