For years, we’ve been hearing about a backlog of rape kits plaguing cities—in January 2011, the Los Angeles Police Department made its way through over 6,000 untested kits; in 2013, Memphis, Tennessee somehow lost almost 15,000 kits; multimillion dollar budgets have been put toward ameliorating the backlog in cities across the country; in May of 2015, the AP published a “trend piece” about local police departments and prosecutors across the country all finally getting around to digging into them.
But the problem persists. Today, however, in addition to money, activists are funneling legislation into figuring out why cities and states have such bogglingly high number of untested kits.
According to USA Today, legislators in at least 20 states have received an onslaught of about 50 different bills (with most introduced since January), all attempting to address the way law enforcement handles rape kits.
From USA Today:
The proposals range including new funding for testing rape kids, audits of long-stored evidence and reducing the discretion police departments or officers have in deciding whether to submit rape evidence for testing by standardizing requirements, including setting time limits for submission to crime labs.
Meanwhile, governors, attorneys general and top state law enforcement officials in several states also have taken actions independent of legislatures to reduce funding and other procedural obstacles to local police submitting sexual assault evidence for testing.
In the past month or so alone, a bill that requires law enforcement to submit collected rape kits to a statewide crime lab within a month unanimously passed in the Florida House; lawmakers in Iowa, California, and Hawaii have introduced bills that would require rape kits to be monitored by law enforcement to figure out why so many are put into storage. Last week, Washington passed legislation requiring law enforcement to track rape kits.
Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation, told USA Today that the surge in legislation was a result of increased attention paid to the issue by activists and journalists.
“It’s just this moment in time where all these factors are coming together and pushing awareness and creating this moment for reform.”
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