Natasha's Justice Project Initiates Search for "Backlog Breakers"
Request for Proposal Invites Qualified U.S. Jurisdictions to Compete for Unprecedented Private Sector Grant to Eliminate Rape Kit Backlog
WEST SAYVILLE, N.Y., Oct. 25, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Natasha's Justice Project (NJP) today released a Request for Proposals (RFP) soliciting applications from local government entities for grant funding to eliminate that jurisdiction's backlog of Sexual Offense Evidence Collection kits (known as "rape kits") that have been collected but have not been tested. The grant is part of a pilot project to establish a model procedure for the elimination of a jurisdiction's accumulated untested kits. Interested jurisdictions must register their intent to submit an application by December 1, 2012, and all application submissions are due to NJP by December 31, 2012 to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Copies of the RFP can be downloaded from NJP's Web site at www.natashasjusticeproject.org.
"NJP's Backlog Elimination Grants Project is the most significant private sector effort to date to contribute to solving this nationwide problem of unprocessed rape kits," said Natasha Alexenko, founder of NJP, speaking at the First Annual Advanced DNA Technical Workshop – Bode Mid-Atlantic in Charlottesville, VA, sponsored by Bode Technology, a conference designed to provide DNA training on the latest techniques and technologies to the forensic scientific community as well as the opportunity for scientists to openly share experiences from their laboratories. "By completely eliminating the backlog in a specific jurisdiction, we gain understanding of approaches that will help other jurisdictions."
The pilot project is designed to have a significant impact on the methodology of the rape kit backlog elimination throughout the rest of the country. The primary objectives of the pilot project are to:
- Establish the project as the go-to source for other municipalities who would like to eliminate their backlog
- Help with ongoing investigations
- Identify serial rapists and criminals
Applicants for the Backlog Project must also submit certifications to facilitate the processing and follow-up of tested kits. These certifications include: Assurances of cooperation and support from the jurisdiction's Chief Executive, Chief Prosecutor, Chief of Police and Chief of the local processing laboratory; and, certification and description of the forensic science laboratories (including accreditation) that has existing authorization to upload the DNA profiles obtained from processing the back-logged kits to their state's CODIS system.
The grant award decision and oversight of the project will be done by NJP's Backlog Project Committee, comprised of experts in the field, including:
- Lisa Friel, Vice President of Sexual Misconduct Consulting & Investigations at T&M Protection Resources and former Chief of the Manhattan District Attorney's Sex Crimes Unit who was instrumental in eliminating Manhattan's rape kit backlog;
- Bart M. Schwartz, Chairman of SolutionPoint International and former chief of the Criminal Division of the United States Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York;
- Dr. Robert C. Shaler, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and former Director of the Forensic Science Program at Pennsylvania State University and formerly Director of the Forensic Biology Department of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City;
- Trish Bergin, nationally recognized journalist whose experience includes Inside Edition, WCBS-New York and Cablevision News; and,
- Natasha Alexenko, sexual assault survivor whose rape kit was left untested for more than nine years and founder of Natasha's Justice Project.
"That so many rape kits are sitting on shelves untested all around the country is truly America's shame," said Lisa Friel, Vice President of Sexual Misconduct Consulting & Investigations at T&M Protection Resources and former Chief of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office's Sex Crimes Unit. "Not only will the Backlog Project help a jurisdiction eliminate their rape kit backlog, with all the positive results that will come from that, but it will also allow us to establish sensitive and effective best practices to deal with notifications of, and interactions with, victims of sexual assault whose kits will be tested as part of the Project."
"Eliminating the rape kit backlog is a significant step in growing the database from which law enforcement can identify previously unknown perpetrators as well as open up new avenues of investigation for previously unsolved crimes," noted Bart M. Schwartz, Chairman of SolutionPoint International and former chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York.
Natasha's Justice Project (www.natashasjusticeproject.org) is a 501(c)(3) organization created to empower survivors of sexual assault by identifying and eliminating the nation's rape kit backlog. Natasha's Justice Project is named for its founder and sexual assault survivor Natasha Alexenko, whose story was recently featured on HBO's critically acclaimed documentary Sex Crimes Unit. Natasha has been featured on CNN, in The New York Times, Associated Press and the Washington Post, among others.
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