"No justice system can claim to deliver justice if prisoners and other detainees are treated like animals, or worse," Leahy said when his bill was introduced last week. "By helping to change attitudes, and showing how with relatively little money prison conditions can be significantly improved, we can help advance the cause of justice more broadly."

Inhofe said he has made 128 country visits in Africa over the last 16 years, and said he believes Africa's leaders want to improve prison conditions.

Under their legislation, the State Department would have to report annually on prison conditions in at least 30 countries that either receive U.S. aid or are subject to U.S. sanctions. It then encourages the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to offer aid to those countries to end overcrowding in prisons, ensure the sanitary disposal of human waste, provide lighting and ventilation and ensure prisoners have access to food and water.

Leahy introduced a similar bill last September, but the Senate never acted on it. His bill last year did not specify how much aid to make available to foreign countries.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) introduced a companion bill in the House last year, but that also failed to advance.