President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed legislation aimed at ending the backlog of rape kits nationwide.
Presently, at least 100,000 rape kits are untested in the U.S. and are likely to remain so without adequate funding to test DNA in a timely fashion.
The Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2019, named in honor of a 1989 rape victim whose evidence went untested until 1994, will help fund DNA test training as well as education programs. The law will also fund the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Grant Program.
“This legislation authorizes the Department of Justice to provide resources to State and local law enforcement to help make sure that criminals are brought to justice. We know that DNA is much more likely than fingerprints to result in the identification of a criminal, yet thousands of rape kits currently sit untested in labs and on police storage shelves across the Nation,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
“The Debbie Smith Act originally became law to provide local and State crime laboratories the resources to end the backlog of untested DNA evidence from unsolved crimes,” the statement continues. “President Donald J. Trump is proud to have worked with Congress, especially with Congresswoman Wagner and Senators Cornyn and Grassley, to achieve this bipartisan reauthorization.”
Each year, $151 million will fund the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program, $12.5 million will go toward DNA training and education programs, while $30 million will be allocated to the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam Grant Program, said Grisham.
In a statement to CBS News, Carol Messam-Gordon, an official at the Palm Beach County Victim Services & Certified Rape Crisis Center, said the funding will help fund new hires, resulting in more expeditious DNA testing.
“This funding makes it a little easier for them to hire new staff and hire new staff in their forensic lab it makes a difference with the amount of kits that can be tested quicker and more readily so victims can have the response that they need, and also for those cases to move even smoother through the criminal justice system,” Messam-Gordon said.