Senate Judiciary Committee member John Cornyn (R-TX) is leading a drive to provide more federal funds for testing the backlog of rape kits in storage at law enforcement agencies around the nation. Cornyn’s proposed SAFER Act was discussed at a meeting of criminal-justice organization representatives this week in Washington, D.C. s this week. The measure would help state and local governments audit untested sexual assault evidence in their jurisdictions. Audits already conducted have uncovered tens of thousands of untested rape kits, Cornyn says.
An existing federal law, the Debbie Smith Act, already provides some federal aid for rape kit testing, but the Senate Appropriations Committee recently contended that the U.S. Justice Department, which oversees the spending, “appears to fritter away forensic and DNA analysis funding by broadly dispersing grants to agencies and entities of dubious merit.” The Dallas Morning News, endorsing the proposal, noted that local agencies are required to spend only 40 percent of grant money under the Debbie Smith act on DNA evidence testing; Cornyn’s bill, which is expected to be considered soon by the Judiciary Committee, would raise that requirement to 75 percent. Cornyn told the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, “It has always been about justice for victims. The fact that victims of these crimes have to wait years for justice is deplorable. Furthermore, by timely testing of rape kits, serial offenders can be stopped earlier.”