A team of researchers from UNO’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice (SCCJ) are leading new research to evaluate efforts to improve processing of sexual assault kits in Minnesota.
The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) awarded about $658,000 to researchers Tara Richards, Ph.D., Justin Nix, Ph.D., and Emily Wright, Ph.D., all SCCJ faculty within UNO’s College of Public Affairs and Community Service, and Bradley Campbell, Ph.D., of the University of Louisville’s Department of Criminal Justice. The funding will support research to evaluate processes and outcomes associated with the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) through the Minnesota Bureau of Justice Assistance.
As of 2019, more than 100,000 sexual assault kits remained untested nationwide, according to advocacy group End the Backlog. The group reports that Minnesota police agencies had about 5,000 untested sexual assault kits. A 2015 audit found nearly 3,500 untested sexual assault kits statewide — a number that grew sharply when the Minneapolis Police Department announced in 2019 that it had nearly 1,500 more cases than it initially reported in the audit.
“Unsubmitted sexual assault kits are unfortunately a common issue that law enforcement agencies are dealing with nationwide,” Richards said. “Agencies in Minnesota are taking steps to test these sexual assault kits and engage with victim-survivors to ensure that they have a voice in the decision-making process moving forward. Our researcher-practitioner partnership will add research capacity to the MN SAKI project so that our practitioner partners can focus on their important work: testing kits, investigating leads, prosecuting suspects, and serving victim-survivors. This research will provide real-time information to our partners in Minnesota, and ultimately lead to findings that can be used by SAKIs in other states as well.”
SAKI was founded with the goals of testing previously unsubmitted sexual assault kits, building capacity for criminal justice agencies to move cases forward – from investigating leads to prosecuting cases based on testing, providing victim advocacy and support, and identifying the cost-benefit of testing efforts.
This NIJ-funded study will examine SAKI’s success in reaching these goals, the processes SAKI uses to reach these goals, and the cost-benefit of the funds invested to test, investigate, and prosecute untested sexual assault kits in Minnesota relative to the potential costs savings of preventing future crimes through testing these kits.
The project began in March 2021 and will be funded for 3 years.
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