Reps. Maloney and Poe introduce bill to help reduce DNA rape kit backlog
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.
This new bill aims to reduce the rape-kit portion of the nationwide DNA sample processing backlog by providing grants to a locality to fund an audit of rape kits waiting for processing, the hiring and/or training of staff handling the backlog, and the uploading of data on every individual rape kit into a national web-based registry. It also requires the Attorney General to report on best practices for testing and using DNA evidence in criminal investigations of sexual assault.
“Reports of rape-kit processing backlogs have occurred across the country, despite substantial funding for processing of DNA samples available from the Department of Justice under the Debbie Smith Act,” Rep. Maloney said. “The reality is that rape kits and other DNA samples are not getting processed fast enough in too many places. It’s not like ‘CSI’ where DNA samples are tested within hours of the crime. The provisions of this bill will help address that.
“With this legislation, we can obtain the data needed to accurately track whether a backlog exists and how bad it is-- and bring the power of web-based transparency to local law enforcement. Citizens and rape victims will be able to see with a few clicks the full contours of local DNA processing status. It’s ‘Government 2.0’ applied to this most heinous of crimes: rape.”
“The SAFER Act allows us to get a handle on the size and scope of backlogs that exist throughout this country and bring transparency to the testing process,” said Rep. Poe. “Law enforcement agencies cannot process kits fast enough, and as a result, rapists are walking free. Through the creation of a national registry, law enforcement, citizens and crime victims alike will be able to track rape kits through the testing process. Justice requires diligence and it is my hope that this legislation will increase the efforts of law enforcement divisions throughout the country as they seek to serve their communities and apprehend, and convict, those who commit these despicable crimes.”
The bill was hailed by Scott Berkowitz, founder and President of RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network). “This bill will help us shine a light on the remaining backlog, and give victims easy access to data on the status of their case,” Berkowitz said. “Rep. Maloney, who championed the Debbie Smith Act-- the most important anti-rape legislation in history-- and Rep. Poe, founder and co-chair of the Victims Rights Caucus, are once again fighting on behalf of rape victims with the introduction of the SAFER Act, the vital next step in our efforts to eliminate the backlog of untested DNA evidence.”
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, backlogs continue to 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.
For full bill text, click here.