Despite a 2010 Illinois law requiring sexual assault kits to be processed within six months of a crime, the backlog of untested evidence has continued to mount.
Blame it on the lack of resources.
But for the first time, Gov. JB Pritzker’s office said on Friday, the backlog – of about 1,800 kits at the start of 2019 – is now down to zero.
“Under my predecessor, there was a huge backlog of DNA from sexual assault cases awaiting processing, leaving criminals off the hook and stranding survivors,” Pritzker said in a statement.
“When I took office, my administration made it its mission to help survivors achieve justice. We made historic investments in the Forensic Services Division to hire additional staff, acquire advanced robotics to speed turnaround times, and implement new software to make our labs as efficient as possible.
Although the Sexual Assault Evidence Act of 2010 mandates testing, it does so only if resources are available, according to the governor’s office.
Over the past two years, the Illinois State Police has reduced its total forensic backlog by about 72 percent, according to the governor’s office.
“It’s part of our mission to bring justice to survivors of sexual assault as quickly as possible,” ISP Director Brendan F. Kelly said in a statement. “Thanks to the improved efficiency of our workflow, the use of new technologies, the continued hiring of forensic scientists and the excellent work and dedication of the personnel of the Division of PSI Forensic Services, we have significantly improved our efforts to bring justice to these survivors.”
Carrie Ward, CEO of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, called clearing the backlog “substantial progress.”
“When ICASA was part of Illinois’ first joint sexual assault task force, the horror stories of backlogs of evidence collection kits were plentiful,” Ward said Friday at a conference. state police press room in upstate Belleville. “Kits have been found untested across the state. The waiting time for the results of the tested kits has stretched to years instead of months or weeks. Today, we can recognize the substantial progress the Illinois State Police has made in reducing the turnaround time in processing sexual assault assignments.