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Wagner, Maloney Introduce Bill to Renew DNA Testing Grant Program

Jan 30, 2019
Press Release
Debbie Smith Grant Program Aims to Tackle the Rape Kit Backlog

WASHINGTON - Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO) joined with Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), author of the Debbie Smith Act, to introduce the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2019. This legislation will reauthorize the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program which provides much-needed resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to conduct forensic analysis of DNA evidence collected from crime scenes, including untested rape kits.

 “Too many victims of sexual assault never get the justice they deserve,” said Rep. Wagner. “DNA evidence is often the only way to find and convict abusers, but there is an appalling backlog for processing DNA samples across the country. We need to reduce this backlog in order to swiftly identify and arrest violent predators. Reauthorizing the Debbie Smith Act will provide our prosecutors with essential resources to tackle this backlog and make our communities safer.”

“The Debbie Smith Act has been called the most important anti-rape legislation ever signed into law for good reason; no rape survivor should be made to wait for justice because their local police precinct doesn’t have the resources to test their rape kit,” said Rep. Maloney. “This grant program is vital for local law enforcement and victims of crime across the country. We need to reauthorize this program so that precincts have the resources to process and match DNA evidence, including sexual assault kits, quickly and accurately. The resources from this grant program have enabled law enforcement to make 192,000 DNA matches in criminal cases since 2005. I’m very proud of what this program has accomplished, and I hope that Congress will act quickly to reauthorize it for another five years.”    

“This funding is critically important to supporting the work of DNA analysts at crime labs throughout the country,” said Debbie Smith, sexual assault survivor for whom the legislation is named. “Evidence from backlogged DNA cases can provide the answers investigators and prosecutors need in criminal cases. Testing the evidence tells victims that we care, that their case is important enough. That they are important.”  

“There are many, many victims out there who are waiting for justice, as I did.  Waiting for evidence to be tested, while their attacker remains free further victimizes survivors and their families,” said Natasha Alexenko, a rape survivor from New York and founder of Natasha’s Justice Project.

"The Debbie Smith Act has helped law enforcement identify thousands of rapists, helped victims get justice, and made this a safer nation,” said Scott Berkowitz, president of RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. “I want to thank Reps. Maloney and Wagner for leading the fight to renew this vital legislation. The Debbie Smith Act has proven to be among the most effective programs in combating, and preventing, rape. I hope it will continue to have broad bipartisan support and that Congress will quickly vote to renew it.”

"As one of the leading organizations dedicated to reducing the backlog of untested rape kits across the United States, the Joyful Heart Foundation is proud to support the reauthorization of the Debbie Smith Act," said Ilse Knecht, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Joyful Heart Foundation. “This is a critical source of funding that for more than a decade has provided crime labs with additional resources to test DNA, including rape kits. The ability of law enforcement, crime labs, and prosecutors to implement change often depends, in part, on whether additional resources and funding are made available. The federal government must continue to play its key role in helping jurisdictions address their backlogs by investing in justice for survivors, accountability for perpetrators, and safety for America’s communities.”