July 7, 2010

II. Recommendations

To the Illinois General Assembly:

  • Pass legislation requiring law enforcement to notify sexual assault victims of the testing status of their rape kit within three months of its collection and periodically thereafter until the testing is completed;
  • After the Illinois State Police present their rape kit backlog reduction plan as required by the 2010 Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act , approve increased funding to the Illinois State Police necessary for the testing of all booked rape kits;
    • If this increased funding is not approved, establish uniform, objective statutory criteria for how rape kit testing should proceed in Illinois. This criteria should require that felony sexual assault cases cannot be rejected or closed until a rape kit in the case has been tested;
  • Create a permanent rape kit task force to exercise oversight of the implementation of the 2010 Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act; and
  • Approve legislation to increase funding for the sexual assault nurse examiner program, and provide incentives for hospitals to employ full-time sexual assault nurse examiners.

To the Illinois Office of the Attorney General:

  • Continue efforts to operate the Rape Kit Task Force to address rape kit testing in Illinois:
    • Include rotating, formal representatives from various stakeholders in the criminal justice system, including sexual assault nurse examiners, crime lab personnel, state’s attorney’s offices, police and sheriff officials, and sexual assault providers;
    • Hold monthly meetings, open to the public; and
  • Continue public records training for law enforcement to ensure private information of crime victims or suspects is not released to third parties as part of a public records request.

To all local law enforcement departments in Illinois:

  • Create a formal system to track all rape kits collected and to determine the status of a rape kit at any stage in the storage or testing process;
  • Create a law enforcement unit tasked with investigating cold hit leads from the rape kit backlog;
  • Create a permanent sexual assault unit to handle all sex crimes investigations, whose officers receive training in victim sensitive interviewing and interrogation of the suspect;
  • Implement a system to inform sexual violence victims of the status of their rape kit test:
    • Identify an officer with specialized expertise in conveying sensitive information to sexual assault victims;
    • Create a policy to require law enforcement to notify victims of their rape kit’s testing status within three months of its collection; and
  • Require local law enforcement officers to participate in attorney general training on public records request responses.

To the Illinois State Police crime labs:

  • Create monthly public reports on the number of rape kits tested each month, including the time it took for the testing’s completion;
  • Establish a system for simultaneous, electronic notification of the crime lab, law enforcement, and prosecutors when a DNA profile matches a profile in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) (a “cold hit”);
  • Address crime lab capacity concerns by securing the funding and space for the DNA analysts required to test every booked rape kit in a timely manner;
  • Report to the governor, General Assembly, and attorney general on implementation of the 2010 Sexual Assault Evidence Submission Act; and
  • Prioritize funds from the federal DNA Casework and Backlog Reduction Grant Program for the testing of rape kits.

To all state’s attorney’s offices:

  • Create uniform, state-wide guidelines for how sexual assault cases are reviewed (such as the felony review process or similar review processes) which would, among other things:
    • Require that a case not be rejected until a standard number of investigative procedures have occurred, including testing a rape kit where one is available, interviewing all witnesses in the case, and interviewing both the victim and the suspect;
    • Ensure that “acquaintance rapes” are subject to the same standards of proof as “stranger rapes”;
    • Require sexual assault victim-centered training for all state’s attorneys who may interact with victims of sexual violence;
  • Implement a “cold hit” tracking program, which would track the outcomes of rape kit testing on rape investigations, arrests, charges, prosecutions, dismissals, convictions, and exonerations;
  • Create a special unit tasked with pursuing prosecutions from investigative leads generated from the testing of the rape kit backlog; and
  • Oversee law enforcement implementation of victim notification policies.

To the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority:

  • Create data and technical support systems to assist local and state law enforcement with tracking rape kit evidence, including location, testing status, and investigative outcomes;
  • Create a uniform data tracking form which all law enforcement must use to track their rape kit evidence; and
  • Create a sexual assault case registry, which would track the process of sexual assault cases from report to final disposition.

To all hospitals in Illinois:

  • Work with other hospitals in densely populated regions to ensure at least one hospital has a specialized treatment center for rape victims;
  • Provide administrative and funding support for nurses who wish to receive Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Training; and
  • Allow certified SANE nurses who are not emergency room nurses to practice within the hospital’s emergency room, as is standard with national best practices.