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Juneau – The Alaska Legislature passed legislation this week that includes a measure put forward by Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage) mandating a statewide audit of sexual assault examination kits. The House added the measure to Senate Bill 55, which would put in place technical changes and clarifications to Alaska’s criminal statutes as part of the ongoing effort at criminal justice reform.
“Our system of processing sexual assault examination kits is confusing and broken. These kits include valuable DNA evidence that can bring criminals to justice, but far too many of the kits are never inventoried or analyzed,” said Rep. Tarr. “The first step in resolving this issue is to understand how many kits are out there and the reasons why many of them are not tested. The audit called for in Senate Bill 55 and the subsequent report to the legislature will inform future legislative decisions on how to reform our broken system to bring more of these dangerous criminals to justice.”
Rep. Tarr put forward stand-alone legislation this session dealing with the backlog of sexual assault examination kits in Alaska. House Bill 31 passed the House unanimously last month, but the bill never received a hearing in the State Senate. In an effort to facilitate the much needed audit of sexual assault examination kits, the measure was added to Senate Bill 55, which was approved on the last day of the regular session.
“I want to thank Senator Coghill for agreeing that rape kits reform is a priority public safety issue and that the issue is so important that working together we were able to amend Senate Bill 55 to include the audit of the untested kits,” said Rep. Tarr. “The legislative process can sometimes be confusing and time consuming, but by working the process, we were able to get consensus to add the audit provision to this important criminal justice reform bill. This is an example of how the legislative process is supposed to work and I want to thank my colleagues for their support to get this passed this year.”
Senate Bill 55 passed the Senate unanimously in early April and passed the House by a vote of 37-2 on Wednesday. The Senate concurred with the changes made by the House and now the bill goes to the desk of Governor Walker for his signature.