“Unfortunately, things have been left at the local level for years, and see what happened. I’m not one to, by rote, propose state solutions, but it’s clear in my mind that it has to happen.”
- Georgia State Rep. Scott Holcomb
A growing number of states have taken first steps to end the untested rape kit backlog:
- Audits: Some states, including Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana and Minnesota, 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: Connecticut, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan, among other states, have enacted laws that mandate submission of all rape kits for testing within certain timeframes.
- Survivors’ Notification Rights: A few states, including California, Kentucky, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Utah, have also given survivors the right to know the status of their kit.
- Funding: Some states have included funding for rape kit testing in their budgets.
- In Texas, for, example, the state budget for the 2014 – 2015 biennium included $10.8 million for processing untested rape kits. It is estimated that there are more than 20,000 untested kits across the state.
- In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder signed a 2013 budget bill which dedicated $4 million in state legal settlement funds toward clearing the backlog of untested rape kits in Wayne County.
Several states, including Colorado, Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio, 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 also starting to investigate backlogs and press 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. 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.