Michigan and Colorado Working Toward Ending the Backlog

Last week brought promising news about the rape kit backlog from two states, Michigan and Colorado.

In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced the state will dedicate $4 million in legal settlement funds toward clearing the backlog of thousands of untested rape kits in Wayne County. The state legislature must now appropriate the funds through a special funding bill, which has already passed in the House of Representatives.

In 2009, the Prosecutor’s Office discovered 11,303 untested rape kits at a Detroit Police Department storage facility. Through participation in an action research grant funded by the National Institute of Justice, a collaborative team has been able to process a small portion of the backlogged kits, but approximately 9,000 remain to be tested.

Among the first 569 kits tested were DNA profiles from 32 potential serial rapists. Investigators have also connected DNA profiles to crimes committed in 11 other states and the District of Columbia.

As a member of the collaborative team working to end Detroit’s rape kit backlog, Joyful Heart applauds Michigan’s efforts to bring healing and justice to survivors. This step will allow for the testing of thousands of kits, and we will continue to work with our partners in Detroit to raise additional funding to clear the backlog entirely and investigate and move cases forward.

In Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill making the state the third—following Illinois and Texas—to require the testing of all rape kits. Going forward, the newly passed legislation requires law enforcement agencies to submit rape kit evidence for testing within 21 days of receipt.

As for the backlog, each law enforcement agency is to submit an inventory of all unanalyzed kits to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI) within 60 days of when the legislation goes into effect. Subject to available space at the crime lab, each agency is then required to submit for testing all kits listed in the inventory within 90 days. For its part, CBI must submit to the governor and senate and house judiciary committees a proposed plan for analyzing all submitted rape kits by June 30, 2014.

As we have shared previously, an investigation by ABC7 revealed late last year that law enforcement agencies across Colorado failed to test thousands of rape kits. It is encouraging to see state officials, like Rep. Frank McNulty, who introduced the bill, respond so quickly to injustice.  We urge all states and cities to follow Colorado’s lead and to invest in justice for survivors of sexual violence.

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