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Sen. Cruz Questions Principal Deputy Director Dr. Howard Spivak on Backlog of Untested Rape Kits

June 26, 2018

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202-228-7561

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, today participated in a hearing with Principal Deputy Director Dr. Howard Spivak of the National Institute of Justice to learn about whether the Survivors’ Bill of Rights had a meaningful impact on the manner in which rape kits are retained and processed. 

Watch Sen. Cruz’s remarks here. A full transcript is below: 

Sen. Cruz: Welcome, thank you for your testimony, thank you for your good work. Talk to me about where we stand in terms of the backlog of rape kits and testing those? 

Dr. Howard Spivak: I believe we’re making significant progress in this. We’re certainly providing extensive support to labs around the country to improve or enhance their capacity. We’ve actually done some pilots in several cities – Houston and Detroit in particular – where they have made considerable progress in dealing with the untested kits that were in those cities and we’ve learned a great deal from their experiences, how to better inform other places to do this. We’ve made extensive progress in work with some specific labs – the one in Las Vegas in particular – that has very effectively used its resources and its communication around the state to both accumulate the untested kits and begin to process them in a way that’s reducing the backlog. So, we’re making progress in specific areas and from those areas we’re learning how to better inform the broader country around us.

Sen. Cruz: So, as we sit here today, where do we stand in terms of what quantity of untested kits are there? And you say we’re making progress, can you quantify what that progress has been?

Dr. Spivak: It’s very difficult to quantify the process that’s been because many of these kits are in storage in various facilities and police departments. They’re not sitting in labs. And so, the ability to even count what’s out there is limited. We are funding a number of communities to inventory those kits which will give us a better sense, at least in those communities, what the numbers are. We may be able to begin to extrapolate from that more broadly, it’s premature on that to tell. The investment with the Bureau of Justice Assistance as well in their sexual assault kit initiative is also providing resources to inventory kits, to get them to labs. I think all of this work over time will give us a much better sense of how extensive the numbers are. 

Sen. Cruz: What’s your best estimate of the number of untested kits in the possession of law enforcement?

Dr. Spivak: I don’t have the capacity to give you those numbers.

Sen. Cruz: How would we find that out? 

Dr. Spivak: I think we’re beginning to find it out by the investments we’re making in the inventory process.

Sen. Cruz: What more needs to be done to ensure that all of the kits that are in the possession of law enforcement are tested to catch the perpetrators? 

Dr. Spivak: I think that the resources that have been given to both the NIJ to enhance the capacity in the labs and the resources that have been given to the Bureau of Justice Assistance to assist communities in inventory kits and getting them to labs to be processed is a very good start to that effort. 

Sen. Cruz: Does more need to be done?

Dr. Spivak: Right now, I’m not sure I can answer that question specifically. I think that over the next year or so, we’ll learn a great deal more about how these programs are working and how extensively they’re moving the dial on this.

Sen. Cruz: So, you said over the next year or so. What can we expect to learn in the next year or so?

Dr. Spivak: I think what we’ll expect to learn is how communities – how specific communities – are more effectively addressing the issue, resolving it, or at least making significant dents in the problem. From that, we’ll have a better sense of how to expand this more broadly at a national level.

Sen. Cruz: Thank you for your testimony and thank you for the testimony of the previous panel as well. The record on this hearing will be held open for one week. There may be written questions that come from members of the committee and we would ask that all witnesses respond to those written questions promptly. And with that, the chairman didn’t give me the gavel, so, the hearing’s adjourned.

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