Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $1,500,000)
The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office (JCDA) seeks funding through BJA’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) to provide resources for the investigation and prosecution of cold case sexual assaults. Since the 2016 SAKI award, the JCDA has worked diligently with twenty-seven law enforcement agencies, the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences (ADFS), the Crisis Center, and One Place Metro Family Justice Center to address the backlog of 3,877 Sexual Assault Kits (SAKs).
Currently, 2,188 of the 3,877 kits are waiting to be submitted to the ADFS, the only accredited and National DNA Index System participating laboratory in The State of Alabama. Kits are tested at a rate of 50 per month. So far, 444 of the untested kits have been entered into CODIS resulting in 287 hits. The 287 hits led the JCDA to identify 33 percent of those as serial sex offenders, a percentage much higher than the national average of 14 percent. The JCDA expects that number to only increase as testing continues.
If awarded, funding will be utilized to ensure the investigation of all the CODIS hits and ensure the prosecution of the cases where there is probable cause. Investigators will work in conjunction with the detectives in the various police departments who have CODIS hits from the SAKI cases. Although the respective department is ultimately responsible for the investigation of the cases, it's recognized that their resources are limited and SAKI investigators have the experience, training, and most importantly, the time to thoroughly investigate the cases and work with the SAKI prosecutor to prepare them for prosecution.
The first inventory (certified in 2017) resulted in 3,877 unsubmitted SAKs and the second inventory (certified in 2021) resulted in only 163 unsubmitted SAKs. Statistically, this proves that law enforcement is improving their response to the submission of SAKS and has become more proactive in submitting kits in a timely manner. The scope of the remaining untested kits justifies further funding to continue the program and seek justice for the survivors of these heinous crimes.
This SAKI award will provide necessary and dedicated resources to address all cases resulting from testing previously unsubmitted SAKs. Because the crime of sexual assault requires a multidisciplinary and trauma informed approach, the dedicated SAKI staff will allow Jefferson County to lessen victim re-traumatization and build stronger cases that will lead to more convictions of sexual offenders.