"Victims of sexual assault submit to these evidence kits with the belief that they will be tested and used as evidence on their behalf. While testing will not undo a horrific event, it could lead many of these cases one step closer to justice."
- Texas State Senator Wendy Davis
A small number of states have implemented reforms to end the rape kit backlog, including legislation, policies and state funding.
Illinois, Texas and Colorado have enacted legislation—all since 2010—requiring law enforcement agencies to provide an inventory of the untested kits in their facilities and then submit those kits to a crime lab for analysis.
Each of the three laws set an initial deadline by which the agencies were to submit the inventory and a second deadline by which they were to send the untested kits. State officials were mandated to develop a plan for testing the submitted kits within a certain timeframe. To prevent future backlogs, going forward, agencies are to submit rape kit evidence for testing within a specified number of days of receiving it—10 days in Illinois, 30 in Texas and 21 in Colorado.
Other states have passed legislation designed just to assess the size of their backlogs. Virginia, Tennessee and Louisiana have enacted laws requiring law enforcement agencies to conduct an inventory of untested rape kits in their custody.
Stopping short of legislation, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine implemented a statewide initiative in 2011 requesting that all law enforcement agencies clear their backlogs. Attorney General DeWine also announced the creation of a new unit at the state’s crime lab to handle the influx of backlogged kits.
Some states have included funding for rape kit testing in their annual budgets. In Texas, the state budget for the 2014 – 2015 biennium includes $10.8 million for processing untested rape kits. It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 untested kits across the state.
In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder signed a supplemental budget bill on July 3, 2013, which dedicated $4 million in state legal settlement funds toward clearing the backlog of untested rape kits in Wayne County, which encompasses Detroit. Officials predict that these funds will allow for the testing of the majority of the backlog of more than 11,000 untested kits.
These reforms have had varying levels of success. The ability of a state to implement newly enacted legislation and policies often depends in part on whether additional resources and funding are dedicated to clearing the backlog and pursuing leads. Training is also key to ensuring that law enforcement and crime lab officials are committed to fully implementing new reforms, including re-engaging survivors whose kits have been part of the backlog, a process known as victim notification.
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