Joyful Heart was honored to join Governor Cuomo in Albany on Monday as he signed the bill expanding New York State’s DNA Databank into law. The bill makes New York the first state in the nation to require DNA samples from anyone convicted of a felony or Penal Law misdemeanor. The new law also expands defendants’ access to DNA testing both before trial and after a conviction based on a guilty plea when appropriate. In other limited circumstances, defendants will now be able to seek discovery of property and other materials to demonstrate their actual innocence after conviction.
At the bill signing ceremony, Governor Cuomo praised New York’s legislative leaders for reaching a compromise that would ensure that the State’s dual goals of safety and fairness are met. He said to the audience, which included members of law enforcement, district attorneys, survivors and advocates from across the state:
“I am proud to sign this bill today because this modern law enforcement tool will not only help us solve and prevent crimes but also exonerate the innocent. The bottom line is that this is a tool that works and will make the state safer for all New Yorkers.”
Ann M., the mother of a More >
Since New York established its DNA Databank in 1996, law enforcement agencies from across the state have solved thousands of crimes—including more than 3,300 sexual assaults and 800 murders. After the state legislature expanded the Databank in 2006 to include certain misdemeanors, police solved 53 murders and 223 sexual assaults using DNA samples from petit larceny convictions alone.
The Databank currently captures offender DNA profiles for only 46% of crimes. Governor Cuomo has proposed expanding the Databank to include samples from offenders convicted of all felonies and all penal law misdemeanors. The Senate passed the proposal in January with overwhelming bipartisan support, but it is now stalled in the Assembly.
Expanding the Databank will solve and prevent crimes. It will allow more survivors of violent crimes to see their perpetrators brought to justice. Listen to the powerful story of Ann M., whose twelve-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted in their home. DNA evidence eventually led to the conviction of the attacker, but not until a decade later—when petit larceny became a qualifying offense for DNA collection.
Like Ann, too many survivors and their families wait years for justice and the healing it can bring. While they wait, their perpetrators remain free to commit other More >
The following post is a progress report from our GlobalGiving project to end the backlog of untested rape kits. To read this and our previous progress report, and to support this project, please visit http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/end-the-backlog-of-untested-rape-kits-us/.
We are happy to share with you that we have raised more than $5,500 through our GlobalGiving project to continue our work to end the backlog of untested rape kits and bring healing and justice to survivors of sexual assault.
We know that rape kit reform takes time—truly lasting change in the way our criminal justice system and we as a community respond to sexual violence will not come overnight. In our last GlobalGiving report, we gave you an introduction to our work in Detroit to end the city’s backlog of nearly 11,000 untested rape kits and support our collaborative partners through our Heal the Healers program.
Our commitment to end Detroit’s backlog of untested rape kits extends beyond supporting the wellness of police, social workers and prosecutors and today, we’d like to share another brief snapshot of what your funding is making possible.
With the goal of engaging and empowering survivors in the criminal justice system during rape kit reform, we are More >
Last week, the New York State Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill expanding the state’s DNA Databank. With bipartisan support in a 50 to 10 vote, the Senate adopted Governor Cuomo’s proposal to expand the Databank to include DNA samples from offenders convicted of all felony crimes and every penal law misdemeanor. Under the current law, the Databank captures offender DNA profiles for only 46% of crimes.
As Joyful Heart’s founder and president, Mariska Hargitay, said in a recently released video:
“This reform will bring healing and justice to survivors, hold violent offenders accountable, solve and prevent crimes, and avoid wrongful convictions. We know that individuals who commit serious crimes, like rape, have broken the law before. A single DNA sample often matches to multiple cold cases when entered into the Databank. We also know that many rapists have previous convictions for lower-level crimes. In fact, since New York began collecting DNA samples for some misdemeanor convictions in 2006, offender profiles from shoplifting and criminal trespass convictions alone have matched to 332 sexual assault cases. It is now time for New York to use DNA to its fullest potential.”
While the NYS Senate has taken a very significant step toward bringing healing and justice More >
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for reauthorization by Congress this year. Since its enactment 17 years ago, VAWA has saved countless lives, protected families, given a voice to survivors and provided invaluable training to the criminal justice community. VAWA is both a symbol and actualization of what it means to create healing and justice for survivors and their communities.
VAWA has fostered coordinated responses to violence against women by bringing together the criminal justice system, social services agencies and private nonprofits that work with survivors. It is responsible for the creation of legal assistance programs for survivors and greater protections for immigrants experiencing domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. If passed, the reauthorization will provide for enhanced criminal justice responses to sexual assault, greater prevention of domestic violence homicides and engagement of young people in stopping dating violence before it starts.
Please take action today to ensure that Congress reauthorizes VAWA. Write or call your senators and urge them to become co-sponsors of this vital piece of legislation. You can send the message we drafted or write a letter in your own words, expressing how critical VAWA is in the movement to end violence against women and girls. Calling More >