September 10, 2015
Contact: Alex Lewis
Phone: (615) 741-1967

NASHVILLE — “I am so pleased that both the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the City of Memphis were selected to receive grants from the Manhattan District Attorney and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to help eliminate the back log of sexual assault kits across the state. We’ve done great work to ensure that we are on the leading edge of states. But there is more to be done, and this grant will help ensure justice to those for whom it has been delayed.”

The TBI was awarded $976,420 and the City of Memphis will receive $1,995,000. The grants will go to 32 jurisdictions in 20 states.

Senator Norris led the way by working with TBI leadership and the Department of Finance and Administration to ensure Tennessee would apply. Norris also spearheaded legislation necessary to make the state eligible for the grant. In 2014, the General Assembly required local law enforcement agencies to provide an inventory of untested sexual assault kits (SAKs) to the TBI. That same year, Norris sponsored legislation to extend the statute of limitations on sexual assault offenses. Then in 2015 Norris passed a law creating a new statewide protocol for the collecting and testing of SAKs. This paired with funding for three additional TBI Special Agent Forensic Scientists to aid in the testing and recording of SAKs in the federal system, CODIS.

“There were several remedial steps we had to take to correct the problem. We had to know the extent of the problem, that’s why we took the inventory. And we needed to be able to prosecute the bad guys we found, so we changed the law to let us reach back.”

With over 14,000 untested SAKs in 2014, agencies have made great strides to eliminate the backlog. The city of Memphis alone has tested over 58% of their kits which has led to 681 investigations and 117 requests for indictments.

“Today is a historic day for survivors of sexual assault across the country,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. “Our $38 million investment means that more than 56,000 sexual assault kits will finally be tested, providing hope to tens of thousands of women who summoned the courage to report a rape and undergo an invasive examination. These grants will generate leads in thousands of cases across the country, some of them decades old. Tackling the national rape kit backlog means addressing a women’s and human rights issue that has been ignored for far too long. We are refusing to accept that some criminal justice problems are just too big – too ingrained, too controversial, too expensive – to solve.

“There’s the old adage that ‘Justice delayed is justice denied.’ We’re working to ensure that no more justice is delayed. But moving forward we hope to avoid this all together by setting up a system that works for the police, the prosecutors and, most importantly, the survivors,” concluded Senator Norris.

Senator Norris represents Senate District 32, which includes Tipton and Shelby Counties.

More information about the grants can be found HERE.

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