Governor John Bel Edwards signed into law a measure that would require Louisiana State Police to develop a database tracking system to track rape kits. Franklinton Senator Beth Mizell says the current process is not victim-friendly and lengthy.
“She has no way of tracking it. If it’s at the hospital. It’s never been sent to the lab. Whether it’s still at the lab, it’s never been sent to law enforcement or to the D.A.’s office. So she’s not able to see what the progress or lack of progress is.”
Lawmakers appropriated $100 thousand to State Police to reduce the rape kit backlog along with $4.2 million more to the crime lab for general use. Police and more than two dozen healthcare providers who store rape kits must participate in the system by next year. Mizell believes the system will add accountability for residents and visitors.
“The idea we have a backlog in New Orleans of over 600 cases is absolutely irresponsible for us to do that.”
The new law will also ensure rape victims are eligible for full reimbursement of their medical expenses after a state board had capped reimbursement at $1,000 for rape victims, compared to $15,000 for other victims. Mizell says when a victim goes through a sexual assault it will be easier to track a rape kit.
“We’ve got a tracking device on that kit it follows the process. She can put her code in at any point and know whether progress is being made or not.”
The state crime lab currently has a backlog of 592 rape kits, 409 of which are from the New Orleans Police Department.