Outdated facilities and an employee shortage caused a backlog of hundreds of thousands of criminal cases at crime labs around the nation, says a U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics study reported by the Associated Press. The overload threatened to delay justice for suspects and victims, said Joseph L. Peterson of the University of Illinois at Chicago, a co-author of the study, which may be found at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/cpffcl02.htm
A study of 351 publicly funded forensic crime labs found that they began 2002 and ended with nearly 500,000, a 70 percent increase. Peterson said nothing indicates any dramatic change in the level of resources going to the labs over the last few years. The labs employed about 9,400 full-time workers and had an estimated annual budget of about $750 million. The labs received about 2.7 million requests for forensic lab services – including DNA analysis, controlled substances evaluation and fingerprinting. About 1,900 more full-time employees – at a cost of $70 million – would have been needed to achieve a 30-day turnaround on all requests, the study found.