Wisconsin’s top prosecutor is addressing delays in clearing a backlog of thousands of untested rape kits.
The Department of Justice received a $2 million federal grant in 2015 to test 6,386 rape kits from sexual assault cases that had been left untouched. In some cases, the kits had been in police evidence lockers and hospitals for decades after not being processed for a variety of reasons, such as the crime being solved without the use of DNA evidence.
The agency has faced criticism though, due to the fact that it has taken more than two years to get the work moving. As of December 1, testing was a complete and results received for just 347 kits of the 4,030 that had been marked as ready to test. Another 1,922 are currently at some stage in the testing process, with another 1,761 still waiting to be sent to labs. A handful of kits have been tested at state facilities, while the majority have been sent to external labs.
Attorney General Brad Schimel says there are several reasons the work has been slowly moving along. Chief among them is that it took time to inventory and identify the kits spread around the state, which had to be done before the state could access grant money. “We had to put a number of pieces in place first,” he says.
Schimel says there’s also a capacity issue with testing facilities, which still have to handle regular cases amid a national push to clear backlogs in several states. “All of those extra kits flooded into the system caused a capacity problem,” he says. “We’re moving this through as quickly as we can.”
Schimel says he’s confident the backlog will be cleared up within three years of the state first being notified it would receive the grant money.