AT LEAST 180,000
RAPE EVIDENCE KITS BACKLOGGED, AWAITING
DNA LAB ANALYSIS
EMERGENCY MEASURES TO AID PROSECUTION
DNA evidence from more than 180,000 rape crime scenes has been collected but
never analyzed by a crime lab, witnesses told a special hearing chaired by
Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE, pictured at right). The unexamined rape kits are
sitting in police warehouses along with at least 600,000 untested DNA
samples that have been collected from convicted felons.
The result: tens of thousands of rapists still free to attack more victims,
despite the fact that they left behind the evidence necessary to put them
behind bars. To make matters worse, every day the statute of limitations on
hundreds of crimes expires, meaning those rapists can never be prosecuted.
RAINN founder and president Scott Berkowitz was among the experts invited to
provide testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee panel. He urged that
Congress quickly pass a bill to eliminate the DNA evidence backlog, train
police and nurses to properly collect DNA evidence, and encourage states to
add a "DNA exception," effectively lengthening their statutes of
FBI crime lab director Dr. Dwight Adams, famed Manhattan prosecutor Linda
Fairstein, and rape victim and advocate Debbie Smith also provided
testimony. Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) were among
those in attendance at the Crime and Drugs subcommittee hearing. Sen.
Charles Grassley (R-IA), the committee's ranking Republican, also supports
efforts to eliminate the rape kit backlog.
One of the bills under consideration by Congress is known as the Debbie
Smith Act, in honor of the courage and energy Smith has shown in fighting
for federal action. Introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen.
Cantwell, it authorizes grants for states to establish sexual assault nurse
examiner programs and to train law enforcement and first responders on
handling sexual assault cases and forensic evidence; standardizes forensic
evidence collection; and provides funding to reduce the current DNA backlog
and to enter the data into the FBI's DNA database.
The Rape Kit DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2002, introduced by
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Clinton, would increase the funds
available to test evidence kits from $50 million over two years to $250
The DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act of 2002,introduced by Sen. Biden and Rep.
Anthony Weiner (D-NY), provides funding to eliminate the DNA backlog, train
forensic nurses and police in evidence collection, and make improvements to
the FBI's national DNA database. The Biden bill also authorizes "John Doe"
warrants to lengthen the statute of limitations on federal crimes.
Lifetime Television has an online
petition in support of rape
kit analysis legislation. Visit
and click on "Put Rapists in Jail"
to add your name.
FORTY-SIX PERCENT OF RAPISTS
REARRESTED WITHIN THREE YEARS
OF PRISON RELEASE
Rapists are less likely than other criminals to be rearrested for another crime
after being released from prison,
according to a new Justice Department
Forty-six percent of rapists released
from prison in 1994 were rearrested
for another crime within three years,
compared with 67.5% of all released
prisoners and 79% of car thieves.
Among those who served time for
a sexual assault other than rape,
41.4% were arrested on a new charge
within three years.
The rearrest rate for rapists was
down from 51.5% in 1983, the last
time the Justice Department studied
recidivism rates, while the rate
for other sexual offenders is down
from 47.9%. The overall rate for
all criminals climbed from 62.5%
Only 2.5% of released rapists were
arrested for committing another
rape, down from 7.7% in 1983. Sixteen
point one percent were arrested
for another violent crime (usually
assault or robbery), 14.8% were
arrested for a property crime, 11.2%
for a drug offense, and 20.5% for
a public order offense such as a
parole violation or traffic offense.
Of the 46% of released rapists
who were rearrested, 60% were convicted
of the new charges.
This study reflects only new arrests,
not all new crimes. Previous Justice
Department studies have shown that
only about one out of six rapes
results in an arrest (largely because
two-thirds of rapes are never reported
to the police).
Released offenders overall accounted
for about 5% of all new arrests
for serious crimes, and nearly 8%
of arrests for homicide. This new
data reinforces the importance of
collecting DNA samples from convicted
offenders and promptly processing
them for inclusion in the FBI's
national DNA database. While there
are now more than one million DNA
records in the FBI database, there
is a backlog of more than 600,000
DNA samples that have been collected
from felons, but not yet processed
or entered into the database. There
are another 180,000 DNA samples
from rape evidence kits that have
also yet to be processed (see related
PAST RAINN NEWS COLUMNS:
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is the nation's largest
anti-sexual assault organization. With a national perspective and broad
reach, RAINN is a trusted resource for media, policymakers and the public.
Additionally, RAINN operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline at
1.800.656.HOPE. Comprised of more than 1,000 local affiliates, the hotline
has helped more than half a million victims of sexual assault since 1994.
For more information, please visit the RAINN website at www.rainn.org