Maloney joins Vice President Biden, Attorney General Lynch, and Manhattan DA Vance to announce grants to reduce rape kit DNA testing backlog

Sep 10, 2015
Press Release
Maloney authored Debbie Smith Act DNA grant law, SAFER Act, and fought for additional funds to eliminate backlog

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) today joined Vice President Joe Biden, United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance to announce the award of $79 million in grants, which will be used to help eliminate the rape kit DNA testing backlog. Maloney authored the Debbie Smith Act, which provides more than $100 million each year for DNA testing. She also authored the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting (SAFER) Act, which directed funds for audits of the rape kit backlog, and increased resources for the analysis of untested rape kits.

“The rape kit backlog remains an enormous problem, and today we take a major step toward eliminating it for good,” Maloney said. “I applaud Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and District Attorney Vance, who understand that an untested kit in Ohio can allow a rapist to attack again on the streets of New York or elsewhere. I wrote the Debbie Smith Act and the SAFER Act because I have long believed that we should test every kit. The survivors of sexual assault deserve to see their attackers brought to justice, and that cannot happen if the critical, material evidence is sitting on a shelf.  Today’s announcement will save lives, and give so many survivors the closure they have been waiting for.”

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., announced the award of approximately $38 million in grants to 32 jurisdictions in 20 states across the United States to eliminate backlogs of untested sexual assault evidence kits, or “rape kits.” The two-year awards, ranging in amount from approximately $97,000 to $2 million, will help test an estimated 56,475 rape kits, generating DNA evidence that will help solve cases across the country.

Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced the recipients of $41 million in grants provided through the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (“SAKI”) Grant Program, which Maloney supported in Congress. These funds will be used to test approximately 13,500 kits in 20 jurisdictions.

Maloney’s “Debbie Smith Act” was signed into law in 2004 as part of “The Justice for All Act”, comprehensive legislation that ensured that DNA evidence could be used to convict the guilty and free the innocent. Since then, millions of dollars of federal funding have been appropriated under the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program to process the thousands of unprocessed DNA evidence kits - including rape kits - across the country. When signed into law, the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2008 provided $151 million annually and extended the program through FY 2014. The legislation was again reauthorized last year.

In 2013, language Congresswoman Maloney authored to require that 75 percent of Debbie Smith Act funds be used to process untested DNA kits, was included in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that was signed into law. The language mirrored the Sexual Assault Forensic Reporting Act (SAFER Act, H.R. 354) Maloney cosponsored with Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX). The law is also providing grants to conduct audits of unprocessed kits so that the backlog of hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in labs across the country can be tracked.