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Unjamming the Backlog

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2008
3 pages

This paper describes ways in which the Federal Government, through the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice (NIJ), has addressed the backlog in analyzing DNA evidence throughout the country.


Early in this decade, the U.S. Congress approved the first Federal funds designated to help clear the backlog in analyzing DNA evidence. NIJ's Deputy Director for Science and Technology, along with his team, were given the responsibility of developing and administering this program. Their efforts involved more than just creating a grant program for States and localities to use in support of their forensic DNA work. A program was designed to improve all aspects of how DNA technology is used by State and local law enforcement. Under this program, NIJ has provided funding and technical assistance that has assisted in the analysis of more than 2 million DNA samples from convicted offenders, clearing the entire national backlog that existed in 2003. In order to link existing offender DNA samples to DNA evidence in current open cases, evidence and biological material from crime victims and crime scenes must also be analyzed. NIJ's program has provided funding for analysis of these DNA samples for more than 60,000 cases. Thus far, more than 16,000 matches have been documented as a result of this effort. NIJ's strategy called on each State to pass laws that require the collection of DNA samples from all individuals convicted of a felony; 43 States have passed such a law. In addition, more than $100 million has been devoted to expanding the capacity of State and local crime labs, so more DNA testing can be performed inhouse, helping to prevent the development of future backlogs. Further, NIJ funds the research and development of new tools for analyzing smaller samples of DNA evidence and highly degraded evidence.

Date Published: March 1, 2008