U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) today introduced the Foreign Prison Condistions Improvement Act of 2012 (S.3577) to help stem the spread of HIV/AIDs in developing countries by eliminating unhealthy and unsafe prison conditions in these countries.
"Overcrowded, unsanitary detention and incarceration facilities endanger lives," said Inhofe. "This extremely high risk environment is 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 20 times higher for tuberculosis infection rates in prisons. I have visited Africa frequently, and I believe that given the chance, the majority of America's leaders hill welcome the opportunity to interact with our embassy and consulate personnel and adopt the best practices for improving their prisons and other detention facilities."
The Foreign Prison Conditions Improvement Act also encourages developing nations to provide humane and sanitary prison conditions so that prisoners can be released in good health. The bill also focuses on eliminating excessive pre-trail detention and dysfunctional justice systems, which frequently result in prisoners and other detainees spending years in unhealthy prison conditions before cases are even adjudicated. To accomplish these goals, the legislation would require the following action:
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;
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;
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; and
Directs the Secretary 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.