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The jurisdictional return on investment from processing the backlog of untested sexual assault kits

NCJ Number
Forensic Science International: Synergy Volume: 1 Dated: 2019 Pages: 18-23
Date Published
6 pages

To assist decision-makers in the allocation of public-sector scarce resources, this article synthesizes existing research on the benefits of additions to the DNA Database and the potential benefits from diverting resources to analysis of the backlog of sexual assault kits.


The economic problem for the forensic laboratory is a problem faced in all arenas; i.e., limited resources are available to address seemingly unlimited desires. This is as true for entities in the public sector as it is for any private concern. This article offers guidance for the optimum use of limited resources through the measurement of the return on investment (ROI) at the jurisdictional level (i.e., the net benefits to society relative to the investment itself). These net benefits include those to survivors from a resolution to their assaults, the benefits to others from the prevention of repeated assaults from serial rapists, and the prevention of societal costs external to those directly victimized. Those external costs extend from the effects on friends and family to expenses for preventive measures to anyone aware of sexual assaults. Such metrics surrounding ROI assist the public sector in the optimal allocation of scarce resources to the justice system by providing a measure of the marginal social welfare improvement from alternative allocations of these scarce resources, considering the objectives of public-sector entities. The analysis demonstrates that the societal return on investment from the testing of all sexual assault kits ranges from 9,874 percent to 64,529 percent, depending on the volume of activity for the laboratory conducting the analysis. There are extreme economies of scale in effect that are suggestive of some policy alternatives. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2019