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Public Statements

Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2008 Introduced

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEBBIE SMITH REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - July 14, 2008)

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Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I am pleased to join the gentleman from California (Mr. Schiff) in support of H.R. 5057, the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act.

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney introduced this legislation to reauthorize the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Elimination Grant Program through fiscal year 2014 at $151 million per year.

DNA has become an invaluable tool in identifying and convicting criminal suspects. At the same time, the increased use of DNA evidence in criminal prosecutions has also increased DNA collection and processing requests. The result is a substantial backlog in processing DNA evidence across the country.

The Debbie Smith program provides grants to State and local governments to reduce the DNA backlog of samples collected and entered into the national DNA database. The program, originally authorized in 2000, expires at the end of fiscal year 2009.

Since 2000, DNA backlog grants have assisted State and local governments with the collection of 2.5 million DNA samples from convicted offenders and

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arrestees for inclusion in the national DNA database. The backlog grants have also funded the testing of approximately 104,000 DNA cases between 2004 and 2007.

While the Debbie Smith Program has indeed been successful in reducing the backlog, there is still work to do. A 2003 Department of Justice report indicated a backlog of 48,000 DNA samples. The current backlog is expected to be just as high.

Mr. Speaker, every 2.7 minutes a person becomes a victim of sexual assault in this country. That's 22 Americans every hour, 528 every day, and over 3,600 every week who are the victims of rape or sexual assault. Debbie Smith was one of these victims, and it took 6 years before her assailant was identified through DNA evidence.

I also would like to commend Debbie Smith and her family for their courage and determination to help others who may become victims and also to prevent others from becoming victims in the future. It's very commendable for her and very brave of her and her family to step forward and go through what they have gone through.

There is another aspect of this bill that I would also like to highlight, and that is the expansion of the grant program to locate and identify missing persons and human remains. There are estimated to be more than 40,000 sets of unidentified human remains just, oftentimes, literally sitting on the shelves in medical examiner offices or in law enforcement offices or in coroner offices around the country. These cases have been put at the bottom of the list far too often, while most recent cases are investigated and solved using DNA technology. Yet, many of the 40,000 are also victims of heinous crimes.

For example in 1996, a woman who became a very good friend of myself and the staff people in my office, Debbie Culberson, her daughter Carrie died a gruesome death. While the murderer was convicted and will serve the rest of his life in jail, Carrie has never been found. Evidence has led investigators to the Ohio River, which divides the States of Ohio and Kentucky, but we don't know for sure.

Grants such as those made available by H.R. 5057 will ensure that law enforcement nationwide have the resources to make identifying these human remains a priority as well.

Congress has a responsibility to assist States with investigating, prosecuting, and severely punishing those who commit rapes and other sexual offenses and provide justice for victims. The Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act protects victims by providing Federal funding to process the DNA evidence needed to take violent criminals off the streets.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this important legislation.

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