Inventory untested rape kits?
Test backlogged rape kits?
Test newly collected rape kits?
Grant victims rights to notice and be informed?
Track rape kits?
Appropriate funding for rape kit reform?
In 2015, a preliminary audit found more than 3,044 untested rape kits statewide. The following year, the Pennsylvania Auditor General released a report highlighting challenges with the audit, including low participation rates from local law enforcement agencies. In 2017, the annual audit identified 1,214 untested kits awaiting testing for one year or more, with nearly double the participation of the previous audit. Pennsylvania law does not require law enforcement agencies to track rape kits.
In 2014, The Accountability Project issued an open records request to bring the number of untested kits in Philadelphia to light. Through this request, we uncovered that Philadelphia had a policy of testing all rape kits.
In 2015, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office awarded the Philadelphia Police Department $419,788 to test 600 previously unprocessed rape kits. The Allegheny County Office Medical Examiner’s Office also received $254,437 to test 400 kits.
In 2015, Pennsylvania enacted a law requiring hospitals to notify local law enforcement of rape kits collected as soon as is practical; law enforcement to collect rape kits from health care providers within 72 hours of receiving notice; kits to be submitted to a laboratory within 15 days; and the lab to complete testing within six months of receipt. The law required law enforcement agencies to report the number of untested kits in their inventories to the Department of Health within six months, required law enforcement to submit these untested kits to the lab within one year of reporting, and required the lab to complete testing of backlog kits within three years of receipt. Law enforcement must report annually on untested kits in their inventory. The law improves victim notification practices by ensuring survivors have the right to be informed when their evidence is submitted for testing, to be notified when a DNA sample is entered into the DNA database, and to be notified of a match to an offender.
In 2017, the Pennsylvania Senate adopted a resolution directing the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to study how many rape kits remain untested across the state and evaluate compliance with the existing testing law.
In 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded the City of Philadelphia – Police $910,945 to fund the analysis of untested rape kits.
In 2019, Pennsylvania governor signed S.B. 399, which builds on current law by establishing submission and testing timeless for anonymous rape kits and kits for which the jurisdiction is unclear. The new law requires the state police to annually conduct an untested rape kit audit instead of biannually as previous law stated, and to include a review of current rape kit evidence collection practices every two years. The bill also grants victims the right to be informed at least 60 days prior to destruction of a rape kit and to have a rape kit preserved without charge; to receive written information on policies about the collection and preservation of rape kits; to consult with a sexual assault counselor; and to receive information on protective orders, victim compensation, and restitution. It requires the Attorney General to develop protocols for notifying victims about their rights.
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