This article overviews the issue of untested sexual assault kit (SAK) evidence and presents recommendations on how best to handle the current backlog and reduce delays in the future.
There are thousands of untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) stored in police evidence rooms, crime labs, hospitals, clinics, and rape crisis centers in the United States. However, making decisions about how best to handle all of this older, unanalyzed evidence is difficult and complicated; and these decisions affect every stakeholder, especially the victim. This article examines the issue of untested SAKs in the hands of law enforcement verse what is considered the "backlog" of SAKs awaiting testing in the nation's crime labs; and presents policy and practice recommendations designed to improve SAK processes as they relate to which SAKs should be examined, "action research" currently being funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), NIJ's project in Detroit, and actions to take in the post-testing phase. The author stresses that "delays in evidence being sent to a lab as well as delays in analyzing evidence and conducting police investigations result in delays in justice" with the potential of serial victimization or wrongful convictions. The ultimate goal is to adopt research-based practices, procedures, and protocols to move beyond the current "crisis management" approach.
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