Joyful Heart Foundation Applauds Passage of New Mexico Bills to Eliminate State's Rape Kit Backlog

For Immediate Release: March 20, 2017
Contact: Melissa Schwartz, media@endthebacklog.org 

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation today applauded the New Mexico state legislature’s passage of Senate Bills 474 and 475, which will ensure a consistent and comprehensive handling of rape kits across the state. With this passage, New Mexico has joined the growing number of states that have enacted rape kit reform laws.

DNA evidence is an invaluable investigative tool. Testing rape kits is also the pathway to a more effective criminal justice system. By testing kits, communities can identify serial perpetrators, take dangerous offenders off the streets, exonerate the innocent, and prevent future crimes. Yet too often, the decision is made not to test these kits. Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits sitting in police and crime lab storage facilities across the country.

In 2016, the New Mexico State Auditor’s investigation into the backlog found 5,440 untested rape kits across the state. In Albuquerque alone, 3,948 untested kits were discovered. The passage of S.B. 474 and 475 comes on the heels of the Albuquerque City Council’s passage of legislation on March 6, 2017, to address the city’s inventory of untested kits.

Together, these bills will significantly improve how law enforcement in New Mexico addresses the backlog of untested kits, reform the process moving forward, and leverage available resources to facilitate progress:

  • S.B. 474 requires that the Department of Public Safety (DPS) process and test kits for local law enforcement agency crime labs with more than 100 untested kits. This resource sharing will increase New Mexico's capacity to test all new kits in a timely manner and upload qualifying DNA profiles to the national Combined DNA Index Database (CODIS).
  • S.B. 475 requires local law enforcement agencies to implement policies regarding the handling of rape kits and to submit kits for testing and processing within 30 days of receipt, increasing accountability in agencies across the state. The bill would also require labs to report annually to the legislature if they have an inventory of 300 or more untested kits in their possession.

Below is a statement from Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy & Advocacy for the Joyful Heart Foundation: 

“The Joyful Heart Foundation is proud to stand with Senator Mimi Stewart and our advocacy partners who fought for the passage of S.B. 474 and 475. This passage represents a major step forward for the standardization of how rape kits are handled across the state. These bills will bring justice to survivors, hold violent perpetrators accountable for their crimes, and promote public safety for all residents. We look forward to the Governor signing them into law.

“We stand with every survivor who has taken the step of reporting the crime to the police and endured an invasive examination in search of DNA evidence left behind by the attacker. Every untested kit represents a missed opportunity to bring justice and healing to a survivor and increased safety to a community.

“Joyful Heart will continue to advocate for federal funds – like those received from the New Mexico Department of Public Safety – to help implement comprehensive reform, and stands ready to provide assistance to any community working to address its untested rape kit backlog.”

Joyful Heart has created the premier national resource about the rape kit backlog, which includes an interactive map and resources for survivors, legislators, and the media. Learn more at: ENDTHEBACKLOG.org

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The mission of the Joyful Heart Foundation is to transform society’s response to sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse, support survivors’ healing, and end this violence forever. www.joyfulheartfoundation.org

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