A growing number of states are taking steps to end the untested rape kit backlog:
- Inventories: Some states, including Alaska, Indiana, Missouri, and North Carolina, have taken the first step toward addressing their backlogs by requiring law enforcement agencies to conduct an inventory of untested rape kits in their custody.
- Mandatory testing of newly collected kits: To ensure the backlog never happens again, states such as Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and New York have enacted laws that require law enforcement to submit rape kits to labs for testing within certain time frames.
- Mandatory testing of backlogged kits: To eliminate the backlog, states such as Colorado and Massachusetts have made it a law that all backlogged kits must be tested.
- Survivors’ Right to Notice: A few states, including California, Kentucky, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Utah, have given survivors the right to know the status of their kit.
- Rape Kit Tracking Systems: Arizona, Idaho, Ohio, Texas, and Washington, among others, are establishing rape kit tracking systems to increase accountability and provide survivors with a mechanism through which they can track their kit.
- Funding: Some states have included funding for rape kit testing in their budgets. In 2018, Alaska appropriated $3.2 million to test every rape kit in the state, and California included $6.5 million in their state budget for rape kit testing.
Several states, including Hawaii, Nevada, New York, Massachusetts, and Texas have enacted multiple types of reform to address their backlogs of untested rape kits, including counting kits in law enforcement evidence facilities, testing kits that have been in storage for years, and/or developing rape kit testing guidelines so that a backlog will not recur.
Governors, mayors, attorneys general, and state auditors are investigating backlogs and pressing for rape kit reform. In Ohio, Attorney General Mike DeWine implemented a statewide initiative in 2011 requesting that all law enforcement agencies clear their backlogs. As of February 2018, the state lab has completed testing of nearly 14,000 backlogged kits. The Missouri Attorney General’s office in 2018 uncovered 5,424 untested kits. In Kentucky, the State Auditor directed a statewide audit of untested kits. State Auditors in Pennsylvania and New Mexico have followed suit.
These reforms have had varying levels of success. Implementation often depends on whether law enforcement, crime labs, and prosecutors receive additional resources and funding dedicated to clearing the backlog and pursuing leads. Change also relies on elected officials and criminal justice leaders prioritizing reform efforts. Training is key to ensuring a commitment to fully implementing new reforms, including re-engaging survivors whose kits have been part of the backlog, a process known as victim notification.
Learn more about the landscape of statewide reform across the country.