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.
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
WASHINGTON, DC - The Department of Justice (DOJ) today released a report estimating that there are approximately 169,000 rape cases nationwide with possible DNA evidence that remains untested. The Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act (HR 3214) – which contains provisions of the Debbie Smith Act that would expedite testing of the rape evidence kits – has bipartisan support and passed the House easily late last year is currently stalled in the Senate.
WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Representatives Mark Green (R-WI) and Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) were joined by thirty of their colleagues in sending a letter to Senate Majority Leader Frist and Minority Leader Daschle asking them to schedule H.R. 3214, the “Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act of 2003,” for a vote in the Senate as soon as possible (http://maloney.house.gov/sites/maloney.house.gov/files/documents/olddocs/DebbieSmith/030904DebbieSmithSenate.pdf). The legislation, which will bring long overdue justice to rape victims and their families, passed the House of Representatives overwhelmingly on November 5, 2003, by a vote of 357-67 and was endorsed by a bipartisan group of Senators in an introductory press conference in the fall.
NEW YORK, NY: Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY) spotlighted astonishing results from New York City's reduction of its DNA evidence backlog from sexual assault crimes, with senior trial counsel from the Manhattan District Attorney's office and anti-rape advocates. The group detailed how the city's processing of DNA kits led to hundreds of rapists identified, with many prosecuted.
Washington, DC - Today, after Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that the Department of Justice will commit $1 billion over the next five years to improving DNA testing in criminal cases, including $176 million in fiscal year 2004, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) released the following statement:
Washington, D.C. - Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), joined Congressman Mark Green (R-WI), and Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) to introduce H.R. 1046, "The Debbie Smith Act," in the House of Representatives. Congresswoman Maloney is the lead Democrat on the bill. They were joined by Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), sponsors of the bill in the Senate, which passed unanimously in the Senate last year.