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Public Statements

Amending the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I am glad that the Senate today will pass the SAFER Act with important amendments I requested to ensure that law enforcement gets the support and funding it needs to make real progress in processing rape kits.

The Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Reduction Program, which was a key part of the bipartisan Justice for All Act that passed in 2004, has been instrumental in reducing the number of untested rape kits in crime laboratories around the country. However, large numbers of additional untested kits have come to light in police departments, many of which never make their way to crime labs at all. It is unacceptable to let victims of these terrible crimes live in fear while evidence languishes in storage and criminals remain on our streets.

I have made fixing this significant problem a priority. I included important new provisions addressing backlogs of rape kits in law enforcement offices in my Justice for All Reauthorization Act, which the Judiciary Committee reported with bipartisan support earlier this year. My bill would provide law enforcement with access to funding to actually reduce their backlogs, along with best practices, training, and technical assistance they have requested to help them do so.

Senator Cornyn and others have attempted to address this same problem through the SAFER Act. The audit provisions included in the SAFER Act can help shed light on the problem, but I believe it is crucial that funding and assistance actually reach law enforcement agencies to help them address their backlogs and get kits tested. That is why it is so important that the provisions from the Justice for All Reauthorization Act doing just that were incorporated into the SAFER Act. I thank Senator Cornyn for working with me and agreeing to this amendment to ensure that this legislation will result in more kits being processed. I also thank Senator Grassley for helping to facilitate this agreement and for adding important accountability measures.

I want to thank Debbie Smith, the courageous survivor after whom the grant program we modify today is named, and her husband Rob, for their continuing tireless work to ensure that others need not experience the ordeal Debbie went through. Their efforts have made a real difference to countless victims all over the country.

The Justice for All Reauthorization Act includes many other significant measures to make the criminal justice system work better for all Americans. I am disappointed that it will not pass this year. I appreciate Senator Grassley's support for the bill when it was reported from committee, and I look forward to working with him and with Senator Cornyn and others to pass the full bill next year.

I am glad we take an important step to help achieve justice for victims of rape and sexual assault. I hope we will go still further and beyond next year.

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