U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Unsubmitted Sexual Assault Kits in Houston, TX: Case Characteristics, Forensic Testing Results, and the Investigation of CODIS Hits, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2016
66 pages
This report presents the methods, findings, and recommendations of the Houston (Texas) Action-Research Project, which examined the causes and consequences of the backlog of sexual assault kits (SAKs) that had not been submitted by the Houston Police Department to a forensic laboratory for testing.
Houston's Action Research Project Working Group, which was established under the grant from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), was composed of representatives from multiple stakeholder criminal justice and community organizations. The Working Group's research agenda included not only the identification of factors that produced the SAK backlog, but also the way sexual assault forensic evidence is used during investigations and prosecutions of sexual assaults, as well as what stakeholders should expect when large numbers of previously unsubmitted SAKs get tested. Based on its findings, the Working Group offers eight recommendations. First, jurisdictions should collect data and report results on the characteristics of cases with unsubmmitted SAKs, the forensic testing results, and investigation outcomes that follow from testing. Second, future research should compare similar groups of cases that differ only in terms of whether or not a SAK was submitted and tested. Third, jurisdictions should prepare for the workload that results when labs begin testing unsubmitted SAKs, some portion of which will involve older sexual assault cases. Fourth, gather baseline information about current practices so as to identify strengths and weaknesses in current responses to sexual assaults. Fifth, give priority to victim engagement and participation. Sixth, consider the use of a SAK testing prioritization system even when all unsubmitted SAKs will be tested. Seventh, measure and report the criminal justice system outcomes of sexual assault cases after SAK testing. Eighth, measure a broader set of outcomes in addition to the results of criminal cases. 19 tables, 35 references, and appended supplementary materials

Date Published: March 1, 2016