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Making Sense of DNA Backlogs, 2010 - Myths vs. Reality

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2011
20 pages
After defining DNA backlogs in the Nation's DNA laboratories, this paper considers why these backlogs continue in spite of Federal funding that has been made available by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) through the DNA Imitative betweem 2005 and 2009.
There is no industry-wide agreement about what constitutes a backlog for DNA laboratories. NIJ defines a backlogged case as one that has not been tested 30 days after submission to the crime laboratory; however, many crime laboratories consider a case backlogged if the final report has not been provided to the agency that submitted the case. The definition used obviously affects the count of backlogged cases. In addition to defining a DNA backlog, it is also important to identify the type of backlog. This report reviews the two types of DNA backlogs found in crime laboratories, i.e., those that involve forensic evidence (also called backlog of DNA cases) and the backlog of DNA samples taken from convicted offenders and/or arrestees in accordance with State statutes. In addition, this report also considers untested forensic DNA evidence being stored by law enforcement agencies and not yet sent for laboratory testing. Although Federal funds have been used to purchase automated workstations and high-through-put instruments, hire new personnel, and validate more efficient procedures, these efforts to increase DNA laboratory capacity have only managed to keep the backlog from being worse than it is. Backlogs persist because the demand for DNA testing is continuing to increase beyond testing capacity because of growing awareness of the potential for DNA evidence to assist in solving cases. The increased demand stems primarily from the increased amount of DNA evidence being collected in criminal cases and because of the expanded effort to collect DNA samples from convicted felons and arrested persons. 6 exhibits and 4 notes

Date Published: February 1, 2011