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October 24, 2019
The Houston Forensic Science Center commends Congress for reauthorizing the Debbie
Smith Act, the major mechanism for crime laboratories nationwide to receive grant
dollars to do DNA analysis, including rape kit testing.
The reauthorization by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday guarantees the
grant dollars through 2024.
HFSC, like other crime laboratories nationwide, relies heavily on these funds to
complete DNA analysis, to purchase equipment and supplies and to train analysts.
HFSC encouraged Congress to reauthorize the act at an event earlier this month with
U.S. Senator John Cornyn, who has long supported the Debbie Smith Act and other
criminal justice issues that assist forensic agencies. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner
also joined Sen. Cornyn, HFSC board members and two sexual assault survivors at the
roundtable event at HFSC’s new facility where they discussed the importance of the
Debbie Smith Act.
“We praise Congress for reauthorizing this crucial funding mechanism and thank Sen.
Cornyn for his steadfast support of the Debbie Smith Act and other forensic issues,”
said Dr. Peter Stout, HFSC’s CEO and president.
“We, like most other crime laboratories in the nation, would see backlogs grow and
turnaround times increase without these dollars. This money helps HFSC and other
crime labs do their part to improve public safety and ensure justice.”
Dr. Stacey Mitchell, chairwoman of HFSC’s board of directors and a forensic nurse, also
commended Congress for reauthorizing the grant dollars.
“As a forensic nurse who is often one of the first to speak to a sexual assault survivor
after a traumatic incident, I know how crucial it is for these sexual assault evidence
collection kits to be tested,” Dr. Mitchell said. “I also know from my years with the
HFSC board how resource-strapped crime laboratories are and how heavily they rely
on these grant dollars. I thank Sen. Cornyn and Congress for its support of the work we
HFSC is a local government corporation that provides forensic services to the City of
Houston and other local agencies. HFSC is overseen by a Board of Directors appointed
by the Mayor of Houston and confirmed by the Houston City Council. Its management
structure is designed to be responsive to a 2009 recommendation by the National
Academy of Sciences that called for crime laboratories to be independent of law
enforcement and prosecutorial branches of government.
HFSC operates in seven forensic disciplines.
Ramit Plushnick-Masti
Director of Communications/PIO
713-703-4898 (cell)
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