2013-2014 Accomplishments Policy and Advocacy

In July 2013, the City of Memphis announced that it had a backlog of 12,164 untested rape kits—currently the largest known backlog in a city in the United States. Immediately upon discovering the backlog, the Mayor’s Office called Joyful Heart, asking for help. We deployed our Policy & Advocacy team to the city to meet with local stakeholders about how the backlog started, but more importantly, how to end it moving forward.

Since then, Joyful Heart has visited Memphis several times. We have met with local officials, law enforcement, prosecutors and advocates to provide guidance and recommendations, including the convening of a multi-disciplinary team—much like that in Detroit—that has come together to address the backlog. We have shared information on funding opportunities to secure the $6.5 million needed to test the kits, including state grants, federal programs and private funding opportunities. And we are advising Memphis on how to re-engage survivors in their cases and the criminal justice process after so many years. We are providing all these services without compensation to maintain our neutrality and objectivity.

Since the discovery of the untested kits, Memphis has secured a $500,000 grant from the Tennessee State Office of Criminal Justice Programs, $1.5 million from the Memphis City Council, as well as a $1 million commitment from the City Council to build a facility for properly storing rape kit evidence. The city has also received a $750,000 challenge grant from a local foundation for rape kit testing. A new law has been enacted in Tennessee that would require all jurisdictions in the state to conduct an inventory of their untested kits. In Memphis, 2,226 kits have undergone preliminary screening at a crime lab so far. 75 kits have been tested. 126 investigations have been opened and 18 indictments have been issued.

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