The U.S. Justice Department is giving Virginia $2.1 million to help the state get through a six-month backlog of untested DNA samples that detectives hope will help them solve crimes and that prisoners think will exonerate them, the Washington Post reports. The grants represent Virginia’s share of a $95 million pool to help states cope with a nationwide backlog and expand DNA testing of crime scene evidence. The grants are the first awarded under President Bush’s five-year, $1 billion plan to advance the use of DNA technology. “We’ve seen time and again the important contribution DNA analysis can bring to the justice community,” said Deborah Daniels, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s office of justice programs.
Virginia will use its money for hiring and training scientists to join the 52 now processing DNA, to pay lab workers overtime, to expand facilities and to buy equipment. The American Prosecutors Research Institute in Alexandria was awarded $400,000 for training. As DNA technology has evolved and more samples have been collected, labs have struggled to keep up. A Justice Department study found that more than 500,000 DNA samples are awaiting testing nationwide.