SB1636 Evaluation: Our Approach

Our examination of SB1636 seeks to assess the impact of the law on both the state level and in four local jurisdictions: Arlington, Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth. Our evaluation studies the effect of both mandatory submission of SAKs collected post-enactment of the law in August 2011 and mandatory submission of SAKs collected pre-enactment of the law in August 2011.

To understand the impact of mandatory submission of kits collected post-2011, we are working with DPS to study statewide trends in sexual assault reports, prosecutions, and convictions. For this, we are analyzing a DPS data set of sexual assault incidents and criminal justice outcomes for all counties in the state from 2008 through 2014. We are also examining trends in the number of sexual assault kits that are being screened and processed by local crime labs. Our expectation is that, since SB1636 took effect in 2011, the number of sexual assault cases reported and the rates of prosecution and conviction may rise. Additionally, we expect that the number of sexual assault DNA samples processed by both local and state labs may increase sharply.

We are also studying the part of the law that deals with the mandatory submission of previously unsubmitted kits collected pre-2011. We are working with DPS to ascertain how many such kits are being identified and sent to the state for lab testing; how the state is prioritizing the old cases; the extent to which the state is outsourcing these kits to be tested; the expected completion date of the laboratory work; and the number of serial rapists identified through this process. We are also working with the four local justice systems to examine outcomes of the testing process for the pre-2011 cases, including how many CODIS hits to suspects or to other cases have been obtained, how many investigations are opened, how many arrests are made, and how many prosecutions result.

Finally, we seek to assess whether the implementation of SB1636 has strained resources in the four local jurisdictions and their associated labs in order to deal with the increased caseload.

 

The research team is analyzing existing data and conducting interviews with key informants in the four local jurisdictions, including:

 
  • police sex crimes investigators and their supervisors;
  • district attorney’s office personnel;
  • system-based victim advocates; and
  • community-based victim advocates.

The research team is also interviewing staff at state and local public laboratories.

Police and prosecutor workloads likely will increase as a result of investigations stemming from DNA matches stemming from the pre-2011 SAKs. Lab workloads would be expected to increase with more SAKs from post-2011 cases sent for DNA screening and testing. Police and prosecutor workloads might also increase if the increased testing in new cases resulted in more investigations and prosecutions.

 

Where We Are

 

The research team has conducted interviews in each of the four local jurisdictions with sexual assault prosecutors, police sexual assault investigators, staff of local DNA labs, and victim advocates.

The research team also completed interviews with state laboratory staff. To date, we have interviewed Department of Public Safety staff, including the Deputy Director, as well as supervisors in the Garland and Austin DPS laboratories.

The research team has also run time series models on DPS data regarding the number of sexual assault reports, number of prosecutions, and proportion of prosecutions resulting in convictions in Texas from 2008 to 2014. Models were run statewide and for each of four local areas where we are concentrating our evaluation efforts –Austin, Arlington, Dallas, and Fort Worth. These analyses assess whether SB1636 has affected criminal justice indicators at the state level or in the four local jurisdictions we are working in.

In addition, we are working with DPS to track key outcomes of processing pre-2011 untested SAKs at the state level. We will continue to track the number of untested cases received by DPS from local law enforcement agencies in compliance with SB1636 requirements, the number of cases screened and tested, and the number of cases in which a CODIS match to a suspect or another crime was obtained. At the local level, we are working with the four sites to determine what happens to CODIS hits when they are returned to local authorities: What proportion result in arrest and prosecution? What are the factors that prevent an arrest in these cases?