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Evaluation of the Impact of the Forensic Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2008
144 pages
This study examined the impact of one Federal funding mechanism, the forensic casework DNA backlog reduction program (2002-2005), in helping to reduce the casework backlogs of DNA crime labs.
The study found that the casework backlog of DNA crime labs expanded considerably from 2002 through 2005 despite continued funding from forensic casework and other Federal Grants. The survey data show that the median total DNA casework backlog for State labs was 249 in 2002, and it increased to 451 by 2005. This failure to reduce the casework backlog is due to a combination of factors, including a continuing annual increase in DNA submissions and staffing shortages at DNA crime labs. Although Federal funding has been helpful, it has not been nearly large enough to address lab needs. Another phase of the study was encouraging, as it found that considerable progress had been made in increasing the use of CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) effectively. The use of CODIS to identify suspects increased exponentially from 2002 to 2005. During this time period, forensic “hits” increased by 100 percent, and offender “hits” increased by 448 percent. The study also found that the increased use of DNA evidence had substantially influenced agency policies, procedures, and practices, as well as increased collaborative activities and efforts designed to minimize DNA testing demands on crime labs. This evaluation used a multimethod, multisource research design. It obtained quarterly performance data from the No-Suspect/Forensic Casework Backlog Reduction Program grantees from 2002-2005. It also surveyed law enforcement agencies, forensic crime laboratories, and prosecutors in funded jurisdictions. It conducted case studies of four local and four State DNA crime labs that have initiated promising practices as indicated from progress reports. 12 tables, 39 figures, 10 references, and appendix

Date Published: February 1, 2008