Washington gets crucial funding to deal with thousands of untested rape kits
Back in April, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill speeding up the process to deal with 10,000 untested Washington rape kits discovered in 2014. Now, thanks to the U.S. Department of Justice, the state now has the necessary funds to follow through on that promise.
“This is great news,” said KIRO Nights co-host Aaron Mason. “This is very important stuff, and I’m glad to see where we’re getting up to speed on this thing so we can give victims a little bit of closure.”
The DOJ is giving Washington state almost $5.3 million in federal grants to address its backlogged rape kits, spread out across four grants.
The state has long struggled with its backlog, with rape kits taking years, or in some cases over a decade, to process. In one instance reported on by KING5, a 12-year-old rape kit from a 2006 case was finally tested, revealing the perpetrator to be a registered sex offender living in Florida.
Delays have largely been driven by out-of-date record-keeping, as well as a lack of funds, personnel, and infrastructure.
“I have a question for you — what year is this?” Mason posited. “Because why are we storing this stuff off site in boxes like this? It’s 2019. Everything should be digital. Everything should be easily accessible. All of this information.”
Thankfully, a portion of these latest federal grants will go toward fixing this issue, with just over $2.7 million going to Washington State Patrol to digitize records, as well as added DNA collection and testing services in a Vancouver, Washington crime lab.
Another $2.5 million of the grants will go to the state Attorney General’s office to test and track kits, in addition to an expansion of DNA collection from offenders.
“After something awful happens to you, you have to go through this experience that I’ve heard victims say is the worst experience of their life,” described Mason. “Anything we can do to make sure that people are going through that process with as little pain as possible, with as little torment as possible, is good.”