Members of Congress Criticize Justice Department for Missing DNA Deadline

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) this week wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder to criticize the Justice Department for missing key a DNA deadline. Under federal law, DOJ’s National Institute of Justice was required to release DNA testing guidelines no later than September 7.

Noting the missed deadline, the Congressional leaders, who sponsored the law in question (the SAFER Act, passed as part of the Violence Against Women Act), wrote:

There is no excuse for your failure to implement a bipartisan law that provides additional protections for sexual assault survivors. We ask that you take immediate action to comply with the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013. The victims of sexual assault in the United States deserve nothing less.

SAFER, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, will help assess and address the nation’s alarming rape kit backlog. By increasing rape kit testing resources available to public crime labs and making, for the first time, grants available to law enforcement agencies to audit their unsubmitted rape kits, SAFER is expected to help take many rapists off the streets and prevent them from committing future attacks.

NIJ is the division of the Justice Department charged with implementing and enforcing this law. The law requires that NIJ develop protocols and practices for the accurate, timely, and effective collection and processing of DNA evidence, with a particular focus on rape kit evidence. While NIJ has convened at least one meeting of a committee of national experts to discuss this, the deadline passed with no standards or recommendations published.

SAFER also directs NIJ to provide grants to law enforcement agencies to conduct audits of their unsubmitted kits. Congress has already allocated the funds for this provision, and law enforcement agencies are waiting on NIJ to issue a SAFER grant solicitation.

To learn more and get involved, visit RAINN’s Action Center.

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