Monday, November 30, 2009

US Senate's Response to Backlog of Rape Kit Evidence

The Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2009 was introduced to the Senate on November 5, 2009 by Senator Al Franken. Also called the Franken Bill, the purpose of this proposed act is to eliminate the backlog of evidence in rape cases. Unlike popular TV shows like CSI or Law and Order SVU where rape kits are used to collect evidence and sentence perpetrators in a matter of days or weeks, the real world is starkly different; thousands of rape kits sit collecting dust on shelves for months, or even years, when they are needed in the courtroom. The news story, Testing Justice: Rape Kit Backlog in Los Angeles City & County, is just one prominent example of this:

While this bill is a move in the right direction to minimize this backlog of rape kit evidence, will it be enough? Rather than outlining penalties for states that do not eliminate the backlog, the act offers monetary incentives to states that can reduce the amount by 50%. I do not think that this sends a strong enough message that rape is a serious and pervasive problem throughout our society that needs to be stopped. In addition, the bill is only now being reviewed by the committee--a stage that many bills and resolutions will never move forward from.

What are your thoughts on the backlog of evidence or the nation's response to it?


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