Texas lawmakers are struggling to come to terms with how to address a rape kit backlog in the state. Funding remains an issue. With politicians apparently unwilling to throw money at the problem, crowdfunding has emerged as a possible solution.
Thousands of rape kits remain untested in Texas, reports the Texas Tribune. It’s an alarming state of affairs that can impede justice for both victims and defendants.
The Tribune report made reference to one funding option discussed during a hearing earlier this year when politicians heard crowdsourcing could be an option.
Crowdsourcing is defined as the practice of engaging a group of people or a ‘crowd’ for a common goal. People may come together to collectively solve a problem.
Victoria Neave, a Dallas Democrat, authored the move to ask for donations from Texans to help the state tackle the rape kit testing backlog.
She said the backlog in untested rape kits goes back decades. In 2011, the state became the second in the country to enact a law requiring all enforcement agencies to send new rape kits to a crime lab for testing within 30 days.
However, the backlog remains stubborn. State legislators appear unwilling to fund a program to tackle it.
The kits cost from $500 to $2,000 to analyze, Neave said. Police gather them after long and intensive examinations of victims.
Forensic analysts and victims’ advocates who testified in March pointed out the testing of the kits is vital to clearing up cases, highlighting serial rapists and exonerating people who have been wrongly accused of crimes.
Goodman Holiday, speaking on behalf of the Austin Justice Coalition, remained skeptical about the crowdsourcing idea comparing it to a bake sale.
As of August 2011, the rape kit testing backlog stood at more than 20,000. More than $11 million was given by lawmakers to address the issue more than three years ago in 2013. The Tribune report states more than 3,500 of the original kits are yet to be tested. They have not been analyzed for more than five years.
The funding to tackle the backlog has since decreased and new kits have been compiled. The issue has not been helped by the closure of the police forensic lab in Austin.
The pressure group End The Backlog estimates there are more than 19,000 untested kits in Texas.
In drawing up the state’s next two-year budget, Senate and House budget writers propose a further $4 million in state funds to test newer rape kits. It’s not clear if that money will make it to the final budget.
The lack of funding to test rape kits is problematic for the criminal justice system in Texas. If you are facing a sexual assault charge, you should talk to an experienced Tarrant County criminal defense lawyer.