Kamala Harris
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JULY 06: Kamala Harris speaks on stage at 2019 ESSENCE Festival Presented By Coca-Cola at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 06, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for ESSENCE)

Sen. Kamala Harris, who is running second in the latest Democratic 2020 poll rankings, is announcing a bold new plan to close down the nation’s backlog of rape kits by the end of her first term in office if elected.

According to the Harris campaign, the program would require a $1 billion investment to eradicate every state’s rape kit backlog. The annual estimated cost to run the program is $100 million, which Harris’ camp says is $2 million less than what taxpayers have reportedly ponied up for Donald Trump’s golf trips since he became president.

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Harris makes this announcement just days after she called for Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to resign in the wake of Jeffrey Epstein being indicted for sex trafficking. “Sweetheart deal” is how Harris characterizes Acosta’s treatment of Epstein who was once a close Trump associate.

“We need leaders committed to fighting for justice for survivors of abuse, not protecting predators,” she said.

The Harris team notes that there are approximately 225,000 known untested rape kits from the last decade around the country and the cost to test just one rape kit ranges between $1,000 and $1,500.

“The federal government can and should prioritize justice for survivors of sex abuse, assault and rape,” Harris said. “As California’s Attorney General, I committed resources and attention to clearing a backlog of 1,300 untested rape kits at state-run labs, and we got it done within my first year in office. We need the same focus at the national level to pursue justice and help hold predators accountable.”

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Harris’ proposal would invest $1 billion to allow states to fully eliminate their rape-kit backlogs within four years and implement reforms to ensure a backlog does not happen again. On average, it costs $1,000 to $1,500 to test one rape kit. The annual estimated cost of the program is $100 million, which is $2 million less than what taxpayers have reportedly spent on President Trump’s golf trips. Rape kits are used by medical professionals to collect evidence during a medical exam of a sexual assault victim in order to establish elements of a crime, and in the last decade, roughly 225,000 known untested rape kits have been uncovered.

“The federal government can and should prioritize justice for survivors of sex abuse, assault and rape,” Harris said. “As California’s Attorney General, I committed resources and attention to clearing a backlog of 1,300 untested rape kits at state-run labs, and we got it done within my first year in office. We need the same focus at the national level to pursue justice and help hold predators accountable.”

Harris’ proposal lays out four requirements for states to get the funding for rape kit backlog removal:

(1) Annually counting and reporting the number of untested rape kits;

(2) Requiring the submission and testing of all newly collected rape kits within a short time frame;

(3) Tracking rape kits and giving victims the right to know the status of their rape kits; and,

(4) Increasing the availability of rape kits statewide, including in rural and remote areas. States will have the option to partner with the FBI to eliminate their backlog or to receive federal funding to process kits on their own. States will also be encouraged to enact laws that require law enforcement agencies to preserve rape kits for the duration of the statute of limitations.

 

Sen. Kamala Harris will be on The Rachel Maddow Show tonight to further explain her proposal.