Little noticed in the unusual Saturday session, the Debbie Smith bill passed the US Senate. The Justice for All Act of 2004 (H.R. 5107), previously passed by the House, incorporates the Debbie Smith Act, the Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act (H.R. 3214) and includes the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act (S. 152). The measure authorizes more than $7.55 billion in grants over a period of five years to local and state authorities to process a backlog of more than 300,000 rape kits and other sexual assault evidence, and DNA samples in cases where suspects have yet to be identified.
“I am thrilled that this legislation will finally become the law of the land,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who worked for more than two years for passage of the Debbie Smith Act. “With the use of DNA technology, we will ensure that rapists are thrown in jail and the innocent are not wrongly imprisoned. Debbie Smith waited six long years to learn that her rapist was already in prison. Now, other victims will not have to wait for justice.”
“We have an opportunity and an obligation to do more and to make the connection between the extraordinary advances in DNA technology and our commitment to fighting violence against women,” said Senator Joseph Biden, (D-DE) in his comments about the DNA Sexual Assault Act he sponsored that is now included as part of this Act. “This bill will help law enforcement officials take justice off the shelf and put more criminals behind bars.”
If signed into law by the President, this Act will also have a significant impact on the rights of victims of federal crimes, including reasonable protection from the accused and timely and accurate notice of any public proceeding involving the crime or of any release or escape of the accused. Additional funding of $22 million over the next five years is authorized for Victim/Witness Programs to carry out the provisions of the Act, and grants will be made available to organizations that provide legal counsel and support services to crime victims.
8/31/2015 Chicago Activists Continue Hunger Strike to Save Predominately Black Public High School - Chicago residents have entered the second week of their hunger strike protesting the closure of Dyett High School, in the predominately African-American Bronzeville neighborhood located on the South Side of Chicago.
Parents and community members are calling on the Chicago Board of Education to keep Dyett - the only open-enrollment, neighborhood school in its area - open and accept a community plan to revitalize the school with a focus on science and green technology. . . .
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .