Reps. Maloney and Poe introduce bipartisan bill to reduce rape kit backlog

--Bill allocates a portion of existing funding under Debbie Smith Act
to audit local rape kit backlogs, hire staff, and establish a
national public database of DNA results--


WASHINGTON, DC Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) introduced the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act, which aims to reduce rape kit DNA backlogs nationwide by allocating existing program funds for incentives to local jurisdictions to audit rape kits awaiting processing, the hiring and/or training of staff to handle the backlog, and establishing a national database of every individual rape kit result. It also requires the Attorney General to report on best practices for testing and using DNA evidence in criminal investigations of sexual assault.

Ongoing reports of backlogs in rape kit DNA processing require that we do more to help localities get the job done, Rep. Maloney said. Fortunately there is substantial funding available under the Debbie Smith Act which covers all DNA processing; this bill allocates a portion of that budget to specifically address the rape kit backlog in too many crime labs, and help get rapists off the street that much faster.

In addition to funding, the creation of a web database will provide a public, easily-trackable source of information about where the backlogs exist and bring the power of web transparency to local law enforcement, Maloney said.

Rape kits are sitting on shelves in precincts across the country while rapists walk free, Rep. Poe said. We know there is a problem with rape kit backlogs, we just dont know the extent of this problem. The SAFER Act gives localities the ability to audit their backlog and bring transparency and accountability to the testing process through the creation of a national online rape kit registry. It will inform victims, law enforcement and the public about the extent of the backlog throughout the country.
 
It is my hope that the SAFER Act will bring to light the necessity of testing rape kits as quickly as possible in order to  bring swift justice to violent criminals. Victims of violent crime should not be left in the dark about the status of their case and have to live in fear while the perpetrators go about their everyday lives.

The SAFER Act is the vital next step in our efforts to eliminate the backlog of untested DNA evidence. This bill will help us shine a light on the remaining backlog, and give victims access to the status of their forensic evidence. Ultimately, it will lead to testing more DNA evidence and taking more rapists off our streets," said Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of RAINN. It will also save taxpayers money, by helping the Justice Department more efficiently solve the testing backlog. Its no surprise that the lead sponsors of the SAFER Act are two people who often lead Congressional efforts to fight sexual violence and assist victims: Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who authored the Debbie Smith Act and Rep. Ted Poe, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Victims Rights Caucus.

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Background:

Rep. Maloney authored legislation, the Debbie Smith Act, which passed as part of the Justice for All Act of 2004, authorizing the necessary funding to start processing the national DNA backlog through the creation of the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program.  Despite Congress appropriating hundreds of millions of dollars since 2005 under Debbie Smith, local backlogs persist. This legislation would create a new purpose under existing law to help reduce the backlogs in both law enforcement and crime labs and give victims a way to track the progress of the processing of the DNA sample related to their case.