Cornyn: Texas to Receive $15 Million for Crime Victims


In: All News   Posted 10/16/2020
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WASHINGTON – The Department of Justice announced several federal grants totaling $15,173,367 to advance forensic science in Texas, as part of a larger national grant allocation of $192 million, U.S. Senator John Cornyn announced today. These announcements include several grants that Sen. Cornyn sponsored and help pass into law, like his bill to reduce the national rape kit backlog, the Debbie Smith Act. The funding comes through the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs and is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the National Institute of Justice. You can read more about these grants here.

“For years these programs have delivered real justice to Texans who needed it, and I’m proud to see the Department of Justice continue to support them,” said Sen. Cornyn.  “I applaud this announcement and will continue to do everything I can to champion the pursuit of justice across Texas and the nation.”

Background

  • The DNA Capacity Enhancement and Backlog Reduction Program, also known as the Debbie Smith Act, through which Texas received $6,890,509. Sen. Cornyn’s bill to reauthorize Debbie Smith became law in 2019, and this is the full amount allocated by DOJ in its FY2020 solicitation. The awards assist with increasing the capacity for DNA analysis and the number of DNA samples, while decreasing the backlog and turnaround time for DNA analysis. Recipients may use funding to upgrade laboratories and purchase equipment and supplies, such as DNA sample collection kits.
     
  • The Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvements Grant Program, through which Texas received $1,563,915. This program was reauthorized by the Justice for All Reauthorization Act, Sen. Cornyn’s bill with Sen. Leahy that became law in December 2016. The program helps improve forensic science and medical examiner/coroner services, including services provided by laboratories operated by states and units of local government. Funds may be used to eliminate a backlog in the analysis of forensic evidence and to train and employ forensic laboratory personnel.
     
  • Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence, through which Texas received nearly $492,895. In response to wrongful convictions overturned through forensic DNA analysis, the program provides funding to defray costs associated with postconviction DNA testing, such as additional personnel, overtime, testing supplies and services.
     
  • National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative for Small Agencies, through which Texas received $79,902. The program promotes the use of multi-disciplinary teams by supporting investigation, prosecution and victim advocacy involved with a comprehensive approach to addressing unsubmitted sexual assault kits. The program also helps law enforcement agencies and crime labs process sexual assault evidence and increase the number of sexual assault kits submitted to crime labs in order to solve more crimes, including cold cases.
     
  • Research and Development in Forensic Science for Criminal Justice Purposes, through which Texas received $1,128,265. The program funds basic and applied R&D that leads toward more accurate, reliable, and cost-effective and rapid methods of analyzing physical evidence. The recipients will address the current needs of the forensic science community while adding to the existing body of knowledge
     
  • Research and Evaluation for the Testing and Interpretation of Physical Evidence in Publicly Funded Forensic Laboratories, through which Texas received $198,362. The program funds projects that will identify and inform the forensic community of best practices through evaluating existing laboratory protocols and practices. Grantees will pursue projects that have a direct and immediate impact on laboratory efficiency and help scientists make laboratory policy decisions.
     
  • Graduate Research Fellowship Program, through which Texas received $531,058. Under its Graduate Research Fellowship solicitation, NIJ is awarding 16 new fellows whose dissertation research is relevant to advancing forensic science, for a total of $1.9 million. This program supports the development of new researchers engaged in bringing science to problems of crime and justice.
     
  • National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUS), through which Texas received $4,288,461. The program provides funding and support for the management of the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), a centralized repository for missing persons and unidentified persons’ information for law enforcement, medical examiners, coroners and the public. In addition, the grantee provides stakeholders with a number of forensic services, such as forensic odontology, fingerprint examination, mitochondrial and nuclear DNA analyses, and connects them with artists who can perform facial reconstructions of unidentified decedents.