In 2010, a Human Rights Watch report that reviewed rape kit testing data from 127 of 264 jurisdictions in Illinois found that only 1,474 of 7,494 kits booked into evidence since 1995 could be confirmed as tested. That data suggested that 80 percent of rape kits may never have been examined in the state.
On July 6, 2010, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act. The law requires all law enforcement agencies to submit every newly collected rape kit for testing within ten days and the analysis of that evidence within six months "if sufficient staffing and resources are available."
In many ways, this legislation has succeeded in generating a clearer picture of the rape kit backlog and providing a path forward to national rape kit reform. After the law passed, the state crime lab saw a 47 percent increase in new rape kits submitted for testing on a monthly basis. Across the country, other states have begun to pass similar legislation using the Illinois law as a guide.
Unfortunately, because Illinois’s law did not provide needed funding to local jurisdictions or the state crime lab, many of its deadlines have yet to be met. The law had mandated that all law enforcement agencies in the state submit an inventory of the untested kits in their custody to the Illinois State Police (ISP) by October 2010. As of February 2011, not all agencies—only 86 percent—complied and submitted their numbers. As of June 30, 2012, 95 percent of agencies were in compliance.
Within six months of the law’s effective date, September 1, 2010, agencies were to submit all previously untested kits to a crime lab for analysis. Based on the inventories it had received, ISP anticipated the submission of approximately 4,000 backlogged kits. As of June 30, 2012, ISP had received 3,770 kits and completed testing on 2,316.
As mandated by the law, ISP officials submitted a comprehensive plan for analyzing the untested rape kits to the Governor and other high-ranking officials in February 2011. The plan laid out a timeline for testing based on the inventory information and divided the backlogged kits into three tiers.
- Tier 1 kits—approximately 125 kits—were from 2000 to 2001. ISP began testing those kits in the state lab in January 2011, prioritizing them before the 10-year statute of limitations expired.
- Tier 2 kits—approximately 460 kits—were from 1999 and earlier. ISP planned to outsource 93 percent to a private lab.
- Tier 3 kits—approximately 3,250 kits—were from 2002 to 2010. ISP planned to outsource the majority of them, beginning in early 2012.
By June 2012, ISP had outsourced a total of 2,097 kits for testing and remained on target to complete its outsourcing program in 2014. The state lab continued to struggle with capacity and would require additional staff and funding to address the permanent increase in newly collected rape kits and to eliminate the backlog entirely.
In December 2013, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Illinois State Police had processed all 4,000 previously untested rape kits. As a result of testing, there were 927 matches in the national DNA database. The department secured several grants totaling $3.3 million to outsource the kits for testing. It will now be the responsibility of police departments across the state to investigate and follow up on leads, move cases forward and re-engage survivors.
Learn more about Illinois's reforms and read about its efforts in the media here.