WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice has awarded more than $125 million in grants nationwide as part of President Bush's DNA Initiative, Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology, and for other crime-solving forensic services. The DNA Initiative was launched in 2003 and is a five-year, $1 billion commitment to improve the nation's capacity to use DNA evidence by eliminating casework and convicted offender backlogs; funding research and development; improving crime lab capacity; providing training for all stakeholders in the criminal justice system; and conducting testing to identify the missing and protect the innocent. In addition to the funding provided through the DNA Initiative, $18.5 million has been awarded to improve criminal justice forensic services. The grants will be administered by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research, development, and evaluation arm of the Department of Justice.
"DNA and other forensic evidence have proven to be valuable tools that have changed the landscape for law enforcement in solving crimes and removing criminals from our streets and communities," said Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. "Through the President's DNA Initiative, crime victims and their families can know that law enforcement in their community have the best forensic tools available on their side."
While DNA technology is helping to solve crimes and exonerate the innocent across the country, many public crime laboratories are not fully equipped to handle the increased demand for DNA testing. Some laboratories have large backlogs of unanalyzed DNA samples from convicted offenders and crime scenes, which can significantly delay criminal investigations and the administration of justice. However, progress has been made since the DNA Initiative began. In March 2003, the Department estimated that the backlog of rape and homicide cases was approximately 350,000. To date, NIJ has provided over $76 million to perform DNA analysis on samples in over 48,000 cases. Since 2003, the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database of DNA samples has increased from 52,000 to more than 144,000 unique DNA profiles from crimes.
In March 2003, the Department estimated that the number of backlogged DNA-convicted offender samples was between 200,000 and 300,000, and that another 500,000 to 1 million samples had yet to be collected from offenders who were required by law to give such a sample. To date, NIJ has paid for the analysis of over 1.2 million samples. In Fiscal Year 2006, NIJ will pay for the analysis of over 800,000 additional samples. Since 2003, the FBI’s CODIS database has grown from 1.3 million DNA profiles of known offenders to over 3.4 million. Extensive training materials and programs have been developed for police, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges, forensic scientists, medical personnel, victim service providers, corrections officers, and probation and parole officers.
NIJ has funded research on tools to analyze smaller pieces of evidence, highly-degraded evidence, and to make DNA analysis less costly. Since 2003, NIJ has made grants in excess of $14 million for new research on DNA tools and techniques. In fiscal year 2006 NIJ will make an additional $12.2 million in research, development and evaluation grants for DNA and other areas of forensic science.
Nationwide, in fiscal year 2006 NIJ has awarded over $73 million to help eliminate DNA sample backlogs. Of that $73 million, $19.2 million will be for DNA casework; $39.5 million for DNA laboratory capacity building; and $14.9 million for convicted offender testing. The Department is investing $3.7 million for DNA training; $12.2 million for DNA and forensics research, development and evaluation; $2 million for use of DNA in missing persons cases, and $4.9 million to the National Institute of Standards and Technology for development of forensic science tools and standards. In addition, $3.9 million soon will be made available for post conviction DNA testing assistance. More information about President Bush's DNA Initiative can be found at http://www.dna.gov. NIJ has also awarded $18.5 million for Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grants that can be applied to improving non-DNA forensic services. This funding represents the largest amount of money provided by the Department to support state and local forensic efforts. The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises five component bureaus and an office: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed strategy and OJP's American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Desk. More information can be found at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov.