It is important for any civil society to maintain an effective, responsive and well-managed legal system that protects people's rights and safety. Despite some progress, the U.S. still has much work to do to address systemic problems within our justice system. The federal government must do its part to not only safeguard our communities, but to make sure our justice system is even-handed and responsive to the needs of all Americans.

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Reducing the National Rape Kit Backlog: Congresswoman Maloney authored the Debbie Smith Act to help reduce the backlog of untested DNA rape kits. First passed into law in 2004, this bill has been lauded "as the most important anti-rape legislation ever signed into law," by the head of the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network.

Congresswoman Maloney first met Debbie Smith in June 2001 at an Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on DNA rape evidence. Debbie was raped near her home in 1989, and for six and a half years she lived in fear that her attacker would return to kill her. Debbie was finally able to live without fear when she learned that her rapist had been identified because of DNA evidence and was already in prison. Maloney authored “The Debbie Smith Act” in the 107th Congress to provide grants to local law enforcement to process their DNA rape kit backlog.

In 2004 the Debbie Smith Act was signed into law as part of the Justice for All Act (P.L. 108-405). It has since been reauthorized as standalone legislation in 2008, and again in 2014, when it was extended for another 5 years, through fiscal year 2019 (P.L. 113-182).

In 2013 Congresswoman Maloney co-authored the Sexual Assault Forensic Reporting Act (SAFER Act, H.R. 354 in the 113th Congress) to require that 75 percent of Debbie Smith Act funds be used to process the backlog of untested DNA kits. This bill was eventually included in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which was signed into law by President Obama. The law also provides grants to conduct audits of unprocessed kits to help track the backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested DNA kits sitting in labs across the country.

In 2007 Lifetime released "A Life Interrupted", a movie dramatization of Debbie Smith's story, starring Lea Thompson. Find out more information here.

To learn more about the DNA Backlog Reduction Program, and to find out if your state or locality is receiving Debbie Smith Act grants, visit the National Institute of Justice website.

More on Judiciary

Jan 11, 2014 Press Release

New York, NYStanding with a courageous rape survivor, elected officials and activists, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) today announced the next steps in her decade-long effort to eliminate the national rape-kit backlog, currently estimated at 400,000.  Listening to the harrowing tale of Natasha Alexenko, who was brutally raped in Manhattan and waited 15 years before her attacker was finally brought to justice, thanks to DNA evidence, Congresswoman Maloney reaffirmed her commitment to reducing the national backlog of rape kits by calling for the reauthorization of federal legislation that would provide funding for the processing of DNA evidence, that way medical examiner offices have the resources to process rape kits.

Jul 15, 2011 Press Release

WASHINGTON –  Today, U.S. Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) introduced the “Stop Gun Trafficking and Strengthen Law Enforcement Act,” H.R. 2554. The legislation establishes a dedicated firearms trafficking statute to empower law enforcement to keep high-powered firearms out of the hands of dangerous criminals, including Mexican drug cartels. 

May 27, 2011 Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has introduced H.R. 2016, the “Campus SaVE Act,” which would close a gap in the law by improving education institutions’ disclosure of reports of domestic violence, dating violence and stalking.

Aug 10, 2010 Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) introduced the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry (SAFER) Act, H.R. 6085, with Reps. Laura Richardson (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Bart Gordon (D-TN) as co-sponsors.

Nov 23, 2009 Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-14) today announced that she has introduced legislation to help improve our nation’s system of reporting runaway children. It is estimated that at least 1.6 million juveniles run away or are thrown out of their homes annually, but recent reports in the New York Times have indicated that 16% of reported runaways are never entered in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database as missing persons, as required by law.
Jul 28, 2009 Press Release

Washington, D.C. -- Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) issued the following statement today on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s approval of Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court:

"Judge Sotomayor’s appointment is truly historic, not just because she is the first Hispanic to be nominated, or the third woman, but because these are not the first things people talk about when they talk about her. They talk about her background, her intellect, her decisions, the fact that she saved Major League Baseball, the fact that she is the most experienced appointee in 70 years, what her judicial philosophy is. The Judiciary Committee’s vote reinforces the message that in America it doesn’t matter where you came from or who you are – every child can dream of reaching the highest pinnacle of his or her profession."

Oct 28, 2008 Press Release
Washington, D.C. -- Today, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) sent a letter to the Department of Justice in response to media reports that some local law enforcement agencies are not reducing their backlogs of unprocessed DNA evidence kits, despite significant grant funding from the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, which Maloney created and helped usher into law.  In her letter to the Department, a full copy of which follows, Maloney asked Attorney General Michael Mukasey to outline the steps DOJ is taking to fully disburse authorized funds to local agencies and to audit the spending of such funds.