Jul 12, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Kamala Harris proposes $1 billion plan to eliminate rape kit backlogs

Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for ESSENCE

Kamala Harris unveiled a $1 billion plan on Thursday to fully eliminate states' rape kit backlogs if elected president.

Why it matters: Hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits are estimated to be sitting around in police stations around the U.S.

By the numbers: The proposed $1 billion would not only aid states to analyze their backlogged rape kits within four years, but also help them implement a plan to prevent untested kits from accumulating en masse in the future.

  • Harris' program would cost approximately $100 million annually, though her team didn't share details on how she would pay for it.
  • One rape kit costs about $1,000 to $1,500 to test, per End The Backlog.

Between the lines: Under this plan, states can either ask for federal funding to process the rape kits on their own or work directly with the FBI to eliminate the backlog.

  • They'll also be required to do things like report the number of untested rape kits annually; implement a "short time frame" for submitting and testing new samples; make these kits available statewide, even in remote areas; track rape kits; and give patients the option to be updated on the status of their rape kit processing.

As California’s attorney general, Harris implemented a program to clear a backlog of 1,300 untested rape kits around the state. "We need the same focus at the national level to pursue justice and help hold predators accountable," she said in a statement.

The big picture: Don't expect this to become a dominant issue in the 2020 presidential election — unless candidates start addressing it themselves on the national debate stage.

  • Earlier this year, Joe Biden, who wrote the first rape kit backlog law, tweeted: "An untested rape kit means a survivor without justice. ... [T]esting kits can identify men who have committed multiple rapes — and might again. Test every kit. Every single one."
  • There have been zero questions asked about policies to address sexual harassment at presidential primary debates between 1996-2016, per a Time's Up study.

Go deeper: Kamala Harris on the issues, in under 500 words

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