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Mr. INHOFE. Mr. President, it is with great pleasure that I introduce the Foreign Prison Conditions Improvement Act along with my friend from Vermont, Senator Patrick Leahy.
This bill seeks to identify and eliminate unhealthy and unsafe prison conditions found in developing countries like Haiti and on the African continent where millions suffer in inhumane conditions.
Overcrowded, unsanitary detention and incarceration facilities endanger lives. This extremely high risk environment is a breeding ground for disease, particularly HIV/AIDs and tuberculosis, and creates grave risks to communities in which released prisoners live. Studies estimate that HIV infection rates in prisons in developing countries can be as much as 50 times higher than in the general population, and tuberculosis infection rates in prisons there are more than 20 times higher than in the general population.
Our bill encourages these developing nations to provide humane and sanitary prison conditions so that prisoners can be released in good health, and thus stem one of the causes of the spread of HIV and tuberculosis among the general public. Our bill also focuses on eliminating excessive pre-trial detention and dysfunctional justice systems which frequently result in prisoners and other detainees spending years in unhealthy prison conditions before their cases are even adjudicated. Tragically, inadequate, misplaced or lost records often result in the incarcerated being held indefinitely because their cases have never been heard. Unbelievably, such poor recordkeeping has kept many in prison long after their sentences have been served.
Specifically, our bill calls upon the Department of State to submit to Congress an annual report that describes inhuman prison conditions in at least 30 countries receiving U.S. foreign assistance. It gives the Secretary of State and Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development the discretion to restructure, reprogram or reduce U.S. foreign assistance to these countries based upon whether they are making ``significant efforts'' to eliminate inhuman conditions in their prisons and other detention facilities.
The goals of this bill are noble, but it will take close monitoring and hard work by our U.S. Foreign Service personnel on the ground overseas to fulfill this work. That is why our bill directs the Secretary of State to provide training to these embassy and consulate personnel so that they can effectively investigate and assess prison conditions in foreign prisons as well as assist these foreign governments to adopt substantive prison reforms. The Secretary is also directed to designate and task a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State within the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor with the responsibility for gathering the information for the annual report and make recommendations to the Secretary based off its conclusions.
I have visited Africa frequently, and I believe that given the chance, the majority of Africa's leaders will welcome the opportunity to interact with our embassy and consulate personnel and adopt the best practices for achieving the elimination of unhealthy and unsafe conditions in their prisons and other detention facilities.
The task at hand reminds me of the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 25:39:40 when he said, ``when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'' And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' ''
We are all our brothers' keepers.