The Justice Department has awarded more than $64.8 million for the federal fiscal year that ended Oct. 1 to 115 state and local governments to help increase crime lab capacity and reduce turnaround time for examining DNA samples at laboratories across the nation. Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson said that between 2005 and 2008, demand for DNA testing services increased by more than 260 percent. Since 2004, the Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice has provided $330 million to reduce backlogs of DNA samples. NIJ defins a backlogged case as one not tested 30 days after the sample was submitted to the lab.
A recent item published by Crime & Justice News should have made a distinction between two kinds of DNA backlogs. One is comprised of DNA evidence collected in criminal cases and another is comprised of DNA samples from convicted felons and arrested persons. Forty-seven states collect DNA samples from convicted felons, and an another 21 states collect DNA samples from arrestees. The DNA backlog is constantly changing. Laboratories are getting DNA evidence, including rape kits, to be tested at a faster rate than they are able to process it. While demand for testing increased rose between 2005 and 2008, crime lab capacity for DNA cases (as measured by cases completed) increased more than 280 percent. Until capacity equals the number of DNA cases to be tested, backlogs will continue to increase.