New Bipartisan, Bicameral Bills Seek To Spotlight and Curb Inhumane Conditions In Foreign Prisons
Washington–Representatives Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Bill Delahunt (D-MA) Thursday introduced a bill intended as a catalyst to curb inhumane conditions in foreign prisons. Identical bipartisan legislation to their Foreign Prison Conditions Improvement Act of 2010 was also introduced Thursday in the Senate by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sam Brownback (R-KA).
Rep. Pitts statement follows:
“Basic conditions in prisons overseas can be unimaginable. In many cases, prisoners are denied food, potable water, and even bathroom facilities. And even more troubling is the fact that many of these prisoners have not even been convicted of a crime while being detained under such oppressive conditions. This legislation is intended to ensure that fundamental human rights abuses within prisons do not go unrecognized.”
The bills call attention to the plight of the millions of people in foreign prisons and other detention facilities who are subjected to mistreatment and other human rights violations. Prisoners suffer for years in subhuman conditions; deprived of adequate food, water, sanitation, or space to sleep; exposed to vermin and life-threatening, contagious diseases which spread outside the prison walls; and abused and tortured by guards and prison officials who act with impunity.
Prison record keeping is often so rudimentary and unreliable that authorities do not have a credible list of who is incarcerated or for what reasons. It is not uncommon for prisoners who have never been formally charged with a crime to languish for years beyond the maximum sentence they could have received if convicted; they disappear into a decrepit, dangerous, hopeless black hole.
The Delahunt-Pitts and Leahy-Brownback bills would require the State Department to publish an annual report on countries with inhumane prison conditions and would allow assistance to be offered to governments making serious efforts to improve conditions. The legislation would also require State Department negotiations with governments that are not making improvements, create a senior position at the State Department responsible for coordinating U.S. efforts to address foreign prison conditions, and require new training programs for Foreign Service Officers.