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

May 20, 2004 Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - An amendment that would direct the Department of Defense (DoD) to eliminate its backlog of untested rape DNA collection kits and ensure that the armed forces have an ample supply of the kits was successfully attached to the National Defense Authorization Act (HR 4200) today by Rep. Carolyn Maloney. This action comes one week after DoD’s task force on military sexual assault released its final report, which was criticized for containing mostly vague recommendations. Numerous immediate actions that had been recommended in previous reports - such as making DNA kits widely available - were not included in last week’s report.

Apr 1, 2004 Press Release

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.

Mar 22, 2004 Press Release
NEW YORK, NY - Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (Queens, Manhattan) who has worked to stop organized sex tour operations out of New York City and the entire country for four years, hailed today’s news that New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer had secured a criminal indictment of the owners of Big Apple Oriental Tours, based in Queens.


Mar 9, 2004 Press Release

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.

Nov 5, 2003 Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-14) joined her colleagues in passing H.R. 3214, the "Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act of 2003." The legislation, which will bring long overdue justice to rape victims and their families, passed the House of Representatives by the overwhelming vote of 357-67.
Oct 3, 2003 Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC - Congress took a giant step towards the arrest and conviction of thousands of rapists who will be caught through the improved use of DNA technology this week. Debbie Smith, a rape survivor and advocate for stronger use of DNA evidence in sexual assault investigations, and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-14), the original author of "The Debbie Smith Act," joined Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT), Joseph Biden (DE), and Patrick Leahy (VT), and Reps. James Sensenbrenner (WI-05), William Delahunt (MA-10), Ray LaHood (IL-18), and John Conyers (MI-14) on October 1, 2003 to announce the introduction of the "Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act of 2003." The bipartisan legislation will ensure that DNA evidence is used to send rapists to prison and to protect the innocent from wrongful convictions.
Jul 17, 2003 Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Debbie Smith, a rape survivor, testified before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security about the importance of DNA evidence in finding the man who brutally raped her.
Apr 30, 2003 Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, President George W. Bush signed into law comprehensive child protection legislation, including a measure sponsored by Congresswoman Nancy Johnson (R-CT) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) to give law enforcement new tools to stop sex predators. The "Child Sex Crimes Wiretapping Act" was included in a larger bill, the "Child Abduction Prevention Act" which passed the House of Representatives in March, 2003.
Mar 14, 2003 Press Release

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.

Mar 11, 2003 Press Release

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: