CONNSACS Celebrates $1.4M DOJ Grant Award to the State of Connecticut to Help Address Its Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kit Backlog
Hartford – Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services (CONNSACS) celebrated the news today that the State of Connecticut was awarded $1.4M in federal grant money to help address its sexual assault evidence collection kit backlog. The grant award was announced today at a press conference attended by Vice President Biden and activist and television personality Mariska Hargitay who founded the Joyful Heart Foundation in New York.
“What welcome news for survivors of sexual violence and the victim advocates that stand with them,” said Laura Cordes, Executive Director of CONNSACS. “This funding will help our state to rapidly eliminate the backlog of nearly 900 untested sexual assault evidence collection kits. Testing each kit is a vital step toward providing justice for survivors and will undoubtedly improve the state’s ability to identify and hold offenders accountable for their crimes.”
The District Attorney of New York and the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the United States Department of Justice earmarked almost $80 million of funding to address kit backlogs across the country and announced awardees in twenty states today. They expect the funding to help test over 70,000 kits.
This summer, CONNSACS released a report based on a survey of police departments across Connecticut that identified 879 sexual assault evidence collection kits that were held in storage at police departments and never turned in to the State crime lab for processing, many for more than five years.
In a press conference at CONNSACS in July, standing with advocates and representatives from state government and law enforcement, Governor Malloy pledged to test all backlogged kits and to create a statewide working group to identify why kits were backlogged and how to ensure that Connecticut does not see another backlog in the future.
The National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, a competitive grant program administered by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), supports the comprehensive reform of jurisdictions’ approaches to evidence found in sexual assault kits that have never been submitted to a crime laboratory for testing. The goals of the initiative are to create a coordinated community response that ensures just resolution to these cases whenever possible through a victim-centered approach, as well as to build jurisdictions’ capacity to prevent conditions that lead to high numbers of untested kits.
All DOJ grantees must implement the three elements of an evidence-based approach that requires jurisdictions to: perform a comprehensive inventory of all backlogged kits in their custody, create a Multidisciplinary Working Group (including law enforcement, forensic medical and laboratory personnel, prosecutors, and victim advocates) to address the issue of untested SAKs and the resulting cases, and designate a Site Coordinator to oversee the initiative’s implementation.