Senate Passes Justice for All Reauthorization Act

The U.S. Senate has voted to ensure that more crime victims get justice and that sexual predators and other criminals stay off America’s streets, passing the Justice for All Reauthorization Act of 2016. The bill also helps people wrongly convicted of a crime, ensuring the right people are held accountable. The bipartisan bill was sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Justice for All, which became law in 2004, increased the national commitment to forensic technology to help fight crime, establishing safeguards to prevent wrongful convictions and enhancing protections for victims of sexual assault and other violent crimes.

The 2016 legislation builds on the 2004 law’s foundation and strengthens victims’ rights and programs by increasing access to restitution and reauthorizing victim notification grants, as well as renewing the program to provide legal help to victims.

The bill also improves the use of DNA to provide justice to more victims, by supporting work to reduce the rape kit backlog, assisting law enforcement in auditing backlogged cases, and expanding the use of sexual assault nurse examiners in rural and underserved communities.

“The Justice for All Act has empowered victims and strengthened the ability of law enforcement to protect the innocent. Our legislation builds upon this success, providing victims with the support they need to restore their lives and law enforcement with the resources to keep violent offenders off the street,” Sen. Cornyn said. “I commend my colleagues, particularly Sen. Leahy, for their work on this important bill, and look forward to getting this bill on the President’s desk.”

“It is unacceptable to let rape victims live in fear while evidence languishes in storage and criminals remain on our streets,” said Sen. Leahy. “I believe it is crucial that funding and assistance actually reach law enforcement agencies to help them address their backlogs and get kits tested. Programs supported by the Justice for All Reauthorization Act will do just that. I am thankful for the tireless work of champions like Debbie Smith and organizations like RAINN. Together, we will keep pushing for Congress to pass this vital legislation this year.”

“We’re extremely grateful to the Senate champions, particularly Sens. Cornyn, Leahy and Grassley, who took decisive action to prioritize public safety and victims of crime,” said Rebecca O’Connor, RAINN vice president for public policy. “We are also grateful to the more than 100 national, state, and international organizations that worked with RAINN to pass this bill. We now look forward to working with House leaders to ensure this important legislation passes this year.”

Other highlights of the bill include:

Targets the Nation’s Rape Kit Backlog:

  • Ensuring that at least 75% of funds go towards direct testing purposes.
  • Supporting the inventorying of untested rape kits.
  • Incentivizing states to hire full-time Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs), particularly in rural and underserved areas.

Strengthens Crime Victims’ Rights and Services:

  • Improving the administration of criminal justice programs by requiring the Justice Department to assist state and local government to improve their indigent defense systems.
  • Ensuring continuity of lifesaving victim services on the national level.
  • Increasing victims’ access to restitution.
  • Renewing a program to notify victims of their rights and ensure they receive legal assistance.
  • Strengthening the Prison Rape Elimination Act by improving accountability measures to ensure states enact rape reduction policies and protecting VAWA funding streams that are critical to their crime prevention and victim support efforts.

Maximizes the Potential of DNA in Fighting Crime:

  • Renewing the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing program, which provides funding to states to help defray costs associated with post-conviction DNA testing.
  • Supporting crime laboratories by reauthorizing the Coverdell Forensic Sciences Improvement Program, which supports efforts to improve states’ crime lab policies and practices.

To be part of RAINN’s work to advance policies that make communities safer and support survivors, visit our Action Center and #ActWithRAINN.

As part of a partnership with MTV's Elect This campaign, RAINN and sexual violence survivor Wendy Guidry have started a petition through to support the passage of the Justice for All Reauthorization Act through the House. Join us in supporting this important legislation—sign the petition

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