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National Institute of Justice Making Sense of Dna Backlogs Report 2010

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June 2010

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
National Institute of Justice

Special

Report

Making Sense of DNA Backlogs — Myths vs. Reality
www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij

U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
810 Seventh Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20531

Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General
Laurie O. Robinson
Assistant Attorney General
Kristina Rose
Acting Director, National Institute of Justice

This and other publications and products of the National Institute
of Justice can be found at:
National Institute of Justice
www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij

Office of Justice Programs
Innovation • Partnerships • Safer Neighborhoods
www.ojp.usdoj.gov

June 2010

Making Sense of DNA Backlogs —
Myths vs. Reality
by Mark Nelson

NCJ 230183

Kristina Rose
Acting Director, National Institute of Justice

Findings and conclusions of the research reported here are those of the author(s) and do not
necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.
The National Institute of Justice is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also
includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the Community
Capacity Development Office; the Office for Victims of Crime; the Office for Juvenile Justice and
Delinquency Prevention; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending,
Registering, and Tracking (SMART).

ii

About This Report
Federal funding made available by the
National Institute of Justice through the
DNA Initiative helped state and local governments significantly increase the capacity of their DNA laboratories between 2005
and 2008. At the same time, the demand
for DNA testing continues to outstrip the
capacity of crime laboratories to process
these cases.
The bottom line: Crime laboratories are
processing more cases than ever before,
but their expanded capacity has not been
able to meet the increased demand.

Definitions of backlogs
There is no industry-wide agreement
about what constitutes a backlog; the
National Institute of Justice defines a
backlogged case as one that has not been
tested 30 days after submission to the
crime laboratory. Many crime laboratories,
however, consider a case backlogged
if the final report has not been provided
to the agency that submitted the case.
Which definition one uses naturally affects
the count of cases backlogged.
In addition to the definition of a backlog,
identifying the type of backlog is also
important. This report reviews the two
types of DNA backlogs found in crime
laboratories: Those of forensic evidence
(also called backlog of DNA cases) and the
backlog of DNA samples taken from convicted offenders and/or arrestees pursuant
to state statutes. This report also reviews
untested forensic DNA evidence in storage in law enforcement agencies.
Nailing down exact numbers of backlogged cases is complicated by the
dynamic nature of the business. Backlogs
are not static. In many laboratories, new
DNA submissions come in at a rate faster

than case reports go out. This means that
the backlog of cases pending analysis will
increase. This does not mean that older
cases will not be tested. Laboratories generally require more serious cases to be
worked first, and the oldest cases in a backlog to be addressed before newer ones.

Why demand is increasing
The demand for DNA testing is rising primarily because of increased awareness
of the potential for DNA evidence to help
solve cases. The demand is coming from
two primary sources: (1) the increased
amount of DNA evidence that is collected
in criminal cases and (2) the expanded
effort to collect DNA samples from convicted felons and arrested persons.
All states and the federal government
have laws that require collecting DNA
from convicted offenders. The federal government also requires collecting DNA from
arrestees, and there is a growing trend
among states to pass legislation to collect
DNA samples from arrestees.

Using federal funds to
reduce backlogs
Federal funds have been used to purchase
automated workstations and high-throughput instruments, hire new personnel
and validate more efficient procedures.
Without this funding, the backlog picture
would be much worse.
NIJ has several programs to help laboratories address their workload. Some programs address overall DNA backlog
reduction; others are specifically for testing samples from convicted offenders
and arrestees. Some funds are used by

iii

Special Report /June 2010

laboratories for in-house processing of
cases. Other funds are used by laboratories to outsource the work. NIJ also
funds basic research and development
to enhance testing processes.

iv

Until laboratories can meet the rising
demand for DNA services and until their
capacity to process samples is greater
than the demand, backlogs will continue
to exist and increase in proportion to the
demand for services.

Making Sense of DNA Backlogs —
Myths vs. Reality
by Mark Nelson
We have all seen the headlines: Thousands of rape kits in law enforcement
agencies are untested; crime laboratories
that have substantial backlogs of DNA
cases waiting to be analyzed.
Delays in submitting evidence to a forensic laboratory as well as delays in analyzing the evidence result in delays in justice.
In worst-case situations, delays can result
in additional victimization by serial offenders or in the incarceration of individuals
who have not committed the crime they
are accused of or charged with.
Policymakers ask why DNA backlogs persist even after the federal government has
provided hundreds of millions of dollars to
eliminate the backlog. This is a fair question; to answer it requires understanding
both what a backlog is and how backlogs
can be reduced. This report addresses that
question and the answers to it.

DNA backlog
reduction issues
are a function What is — and is not —
of supply and a backlogged case?
demand. There is no industrywide definition of a

backlog. Some laboratories consider a
case backlogged if the DNA has not been
analyzed in 90 days. Others consider a
case backlogged when the DNA has not
been analyzed and the final report has
not been sent to the agency that originally submitted the DNA. NIJ defines a
backlogged case as one that has not been
tested 30 days after it was submitted to
the laboratory.

Crime laboratories have two kinds of DNA
backlogs, and each has its own particular
issues:
1. Casework backlogs. This type of backlog consists of forensic evidence collected
from crime scenes, victims and suspects
in criminal cases and submitted to a laboratory. Processing this type of evidence
is time-consuming because the evidence
must be screened to determine if, and
what kind of, biological materials are present before DNA testing can even begin.
Some of these samples can be degraded
or fragmented and can contain DNA from
multiple suspects and victims.
2. Convicted offender and arrestee sample backlogs. By 2009, the federal government and all 50 states had passed bills
requiring collection of DNA from offenders
convicted of certain crimes. In addition,
the federal government and many states
had also passed legislation to allow collection from people who are arrested for
certain crimes.
The processing of convicted offender and
arrestee samples involves the DNA testing
of the samples and the subsequent review
and upload of the resulting DNA profiles
into the national DNA database, called
CODIS (Combined DNA Indexing System),
which is operated by the FBI. (See sidebar
“What Is CODIS?”)
Delays in processing convicted offender
and arrestee samples may occur at several
stages along the way: the analysis, the
review or the uploading into CODIS.

1

Special Report /June 2010

What Is CODIS?
The FBI’s Combined DNA Index System
(CODIS) is a software platform that blends
forensic science and computer technology.

NIJ has provided funds
to assist in the testing
of more than 1.6 million
convicted offender and
arrestee samples since
2005 and more than
56,000 data reviews.
More than 15,000 hits
in CODIS have resulted.

CODIS has multiple levels at which DNA profiles can be stored and searched: the local
level (for city and county DNA laboratories),
the state level and the national level. Data
stored at the national level are found in the
National DNA Index System (NDIS). It is at
this level that a DNA profile from a crime
scene sample (also known as a forensic
unknown) can be searched against offender
profiles across the nation to solve cases
between states.
DNA analysts use CODIS to search DNA
profiles obtained from crime scene evidence against DNA profiles from other
crime scenes and from convicted offenders
and arrestees. CODIS generates leads for
investigators when a match is obtained.
For example, if the DNA profile from a
crime scene matches a sample taken from
another crime scene, the cases may be
linked in what is called a forensic hit. If the
crime scene sample matches a convicted
offender or arrestee sample, an offender hit
is obtained. Hits give investigating officers
valuable information that helps them focus
their investigation appropriately.
At the end of 2004, CODIS contained just over
2 million offender profiles. As of June 30,
2009, the FBI reported that more than 7 million offender profiles and 272,000 forensic
profiles from crime scene samples had been
uploaded to CODIS. The result has been
more than 93,000 hits and more than 91,000
investigations aided nationwide.
Learn more about CODIS at the FBI’s Web
site at http://www.fbi.gov/hq/lab/html/
codisbrochure_text.htm.

2

Because DNA samples taken from convicted offenders and arrestees are always
collected on a standard, consistent
medium (usually a paper product), they are
significantly easier and faster to analyze
than casework samples. The standardized
collection methods used in each state for
convicted offender and arrestee samples
makes it possible to use automated analysis on robotic platforms that can process
approximately 96 samples and controls
simultaneously. In addition, the laboratory
does not need to “find” the DNA, unlike
the forensic casework samples.
Evidence collected from crime scenes
and stored in law enforcement evidence
rooms waiting to be sent to a laboratory
for analysis is not defined as a crime laboratory backlog. Some of the headlines
about backlogs refer to rape kits being
stored in law enforcement evidence
rooms. NIJ considers untested evidence
awaiting submission to laboratories to be
a separate and different problem from
backlogs in crime laboratories. Federal
programs to reduce backlogs in crime
laboratories are not designed to address
untested evidence stored in law enforcement agencies. Untested evidence in law
enforcement custody becomes part of a
crime laboratory backlog only when law
enforcement agencies submit the evidence to a crime laboratory. (See page 4,
“Untested Evidence in Law Enforcement
Custody” for further discussion.)

Why do backlogs continue to
be a problem?
Consider exhibit 1, “DNA Casework:
Supply, Demand, Backlogs” and the story
it tells about DNA backlogs in the nation’s
publically funded crime laboratories.
Each of the three graphs depicts DNA
backlogs at a particular moment in time.
Although the studies do not share a single

Making Sense of DNA Backlogs — Myths vs. Reality

methodology (survey response rates differ, for instance), each portrays the same
pattern: as new cases received by DNA
laboratories continue to outpace the ability
of laboratories to complete these cases,
backlogs persist. Taken together, these
data depict increasing laboratory capacity
but also growing backlogs.

Today’s crime laboratory backlog consists
of recent cases, not older cases; the backlogged cases from 2004 — when Congress
passed the legislation that created the DNA
Initiative — have been analyzed.
The bottom line: Crime laboratories have
significantly increased their capacity to

Exhibit 1. DNA casework trends: Supply, demand, backlogs
The 2005 graph is based on information from the BJS report “Census of Publicly Funded Forensic Crime Laboratories.” In that report,
124 of 187 laboratories that self-identified as handling forensic DNA contributed data. The 2007 graph is based on data reported by 153
of 154 laboratories in the study “2007 DNA Evidence and Offender Analysis Measurement: DNA Backlogs, Capacity and Funding.” Data
for 2008, reported by applicants for NIJ’s 2009 DNA Backlog Reduction Program, come from 109 applicants representing 160 DNA laboratories. (State laboratory systems with multiple DNA labs or consortium applications representing more than one laboratory were asked
to provide data for all labs included in the application.)
Yearend backlog numbers were computed from the information reported by laboratories: the number of cases they had at the beginning
of the year plus the number of new requests they received during that year minus the number of those requests that were completed
that year.

Total to be processed

Backlog from previous year

New cases

Yearend backlog

Completed
250000

250000

250000

200000

200000

200000

150000

150000

150000

100000

100000

100000

50000

50000

50000

0

0
2005

0
2007

2008

Sources:
2005–Durose, Matthew R., Census of Publicly Funded Forensic Crime Laboratories, 2005, Washington, DC: US Department of Justice,
July 2008, NCJ 222181, www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/content/pub/pdf/cpffc105pdf.
2007–National Forensic Science Technology Center, “2007 DNA Evidence and Offender Analysis Measurement: DNA Backlogs,
Capacity and Funding,” final report to NIJ from grant 2006-MU-BX-K002, January 2010, NCJ 230328, www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/
grants/230328.pdf.
2008–2009 grant applications to DNA Backlog Reduction Program, National Institute of Justice.

3

Special Report /June 2010

work cases, but they are not able to eliminate their backlogs because the demand
outstrips the increased capacity.

Why is demand increasing?
Demand for DNA testing is rapidly increasing for many reasons:
Increasing Awareness—Knowledge of
the potential of DNA evidence to solve
cases has grown exponentially in recent
years, not just among professionals in the
criminal justice system but also among the
general public.

All the cases that
were in backlog in
2004 when Congress
passed the DNA
Initiative were worked
years ago. Today’s
backlog consists
of recent cases.

Property Crimes—The number of property crimes being sent for DNA testing
is skyrocketing, and property crimes are
considerably more common than violent
crime. (Most laboratories require violent
crime cases to be worked before property
crime cases.)
Scientific Advances—Thanks to scientific
advances, we can test smaller DNA samples than ever before, such as for example, “touch DNA” samples, which occur
when DNA is transferred by the simple
touching of an object. This has led to more
requests for DNA testing of guns (to find
out who may have handled the weapon)
and the swabbing of steering wheels from
stolen cars to try to identify the last driver
of the car.
Cold Cases—Many older and unsolved
cases from the “pre-DNA” era are being
reopened and subjected to DNA testing
with the hope of solving them.
Post-Conviction Testing—Numerous
older, pre-DNA cases that resulted in a
conviction have been reopened so DNA
testing can be done.
Crime laboratory backlogs are not static:
The numbers are in constant flux as (1)

4

laboratories increase their capacity by
improving processes, getting additional
or newer and faster equipment and hiring new staff, (2) more jurisdictions pass
legislation to collect DNA from arrestees
and (3) laboratories receive more and more
requests for DNA analysis or lose trained
DNA analysts.
Do the data in exhibit 1 mean that the
problem of casework backlogs is getting
worse instead of better? The answer is
“yes” and “no.” Exhibit 1 shows that
casework backlogs are increasing, but only
in proportion to the increased demand
for service. Crime laboratories have significantly increased their capacity to work
DNA cases, but they have not been able
to reduce backlogs because the increase
in demand is outpacing the increases in
capacity.
The good news is that thousands more
cases were solved in 2008 than in 2005 as
laboratories processed more DNA cases
and the resulting profiles were uploaded
into CODIS.

Untested evidence in law
enforcement custody
The issue of untested evidence in law
enforcement agencies was first measured
in an NIJ-funded study published in 2009.
A nationwide sample of more than 2,000
agencies found that in 2007, 14 percent
of unsolved homicide cases (an estimated
3,975 cases) and 18 percent of unsolved
rape cases (an estimated 27,595 cases)
contained forensic evidence that was not
submitted by law enforcement agencies to
a crime laboratory for analysis.1
Serological/biological evidence and DNA
were the most common forms of forensic
evidence associated with these cases.
Results also indicated that 23 percent of

Making Sense of DNA Backlogs — Myths vs. Reality

all unsolved property crimes (an estimated
5,126,719 cases) contained unanalyzed
forensic evidence.
There are many reasons why a law
enforcement agency might not submit
forensic evidence to a crime laboratory
for analysis. For example, subsequent
investigation may show that the evidence
is not probative, charges might have
been dropped in the case, the case might
be unfounded or a guilty plea may have
already been taken.2
More research is needed to completely
understand how law enforcement agencies decide to submit or not submit evidence to a laboratory, what proportion of
open cases could benefit from forensic
testing and how cases should be prioritized for testing.
There are several implications to the findings from the study of law enforcement
forensic evidence not submitted to a
laboratory:
■■

Law enforcement personnel may benefit
from improved training on the benefits
and use of forensic analysis.

■■

Many law enforcement agencies lack
information management systems to
track forensic evidence.

■■

There is a need for more standardized
policies for evidence retention.

Submitting untested evidence in law
enforcement custody for analysis could
have a serious impact on DNA backlogs
in crime laboratories if the evidence were
suddenly submitted to a crime laboratory
all at once. It would cause huge spikes in
the workload and immediately drive up
backlogs.
A better approach would be for investigating officers to carefully review the

untested evidence and the case files to
determine if forensic analysis is needed
and if the laboratory would need additional
elimination samples to identify suspects.
Evidence may not need to be submitted,
for example, in cases that have been adjudicated (either by trial or plea bargain) and
in those cases where the victim has withdrawn the criminal complaint or the prosecutor has refused to file charges.
Open, active cases where the analysis of
the evidence may provide important investigative leads to solve the case should be
given the highest priority for submission
to a crime laboratory. Evidence should be
submitted gradually over time rather than
all at once.

What is NIJ doing to deal
with DNA backlogs?
Congress has provided hundreds of millions of dollars to reduce DNA backlogs
in crime laboratories and grow the FBI’s
national DNA database, called CODIS. (See
sidebar “What Is CODIS?”) NIJ distributes
the money through several programs that
address different aspects of the backlog
issues. These programs are making a big
difference.
1. DNA Backlog Reduction Program.
This is NIJ’s largest funding program. It
provides direct grants to accredited public
sector DNA laboratories. The program’s
short-term goal is to reduce the backlog of
untested cases by providing crime laboratories with funds to work more cases. The
crime laboratories can either outsource
backlogged cases to private laboratories or
test more cases in-house.

Myth — Backlogs
are a onetime event.
As long as one chips
away at the backlog
of untested cases,
it will eventually
go away.
Reality — Backlogs
are not a onetime
event. They are
dynamic and subject
to the law of supply
and demand. They
may go down, but
they may go up.

The long-term goal is to build the capacity
of crime laboratories by providing funds
to purchase high-throughput instruments
capable of processing multiple samples

5

Special Report /June 2010

Exhibit 2. Funding for DNA Backlog Reduction
Program

Myth — If we test
every single
backlogged case
in one huge effort,
then we will
solve the backlog
problem and will
never have to deal
with it again.
Reality — DNA
backlogs will exist
until the supply
(capacity of the
nation’s crime
laboratories
to test cases)
surpasses demand
(new service
requests).

6

Exhibit 3. Number of cases tested with federal funds

Year

Funding Provided

Year

Number of Cases Funded

2004

$ 66,567,851.00

2004

29,414

2005

$ 48,440,841.00

2005

19,369

2006

$ 55,412,877.00

2006

16,057

2007

$ 44,239,199.00

2007

9,278

2008

$ 53,245,922.00

2008

30,350

2009

$ 62,271,832.00

2009

31,285

Total

$330,178,522.00

Total

135,753

at the same time, automated robotic
systems and laboratory information management systems to manage the data
generated more efficiently. Funds can also
be used to validate newer, more efficient
laboratory procedures and hire additional
personnel.
NIJ’s DNA Backlog Reduction Program
has helped crime laboratories nationwide
to reduce backlogs by 135,753 cases. It
has also helped state and local DNA laboratories significantly increase their capacity
to work cases between 2005 and 2008.
(See exhibits 2 and 3.)
Without federal funds, there is no doubt
many laboratories would not have been
able to increase beyond the capacity they
had in 2005.3
In a 2007 survey of publicly funded crime
laboratories, 90 percent reported that they
would not have sufficient funding if NIJ
grants were no longer available.4 They
estimated that on average about 26 percent of their casework budget comes from
NIJ. With respect to particular aspects
of DNA analysis, the labs estimated that
federal funding covered 10 percent of the
budget for reagents, 85 percent for instrumentation and 20 percent for training.

Federal funds have been used to purchase automated DNA extraction robots,
high-throughput genetic analyzers, expert
systems to assist in the analysis of DNA
profile data, and laboratory information
management systems to collect, process
and assimilate case data. Funds have also
been used to hire and train personnel and
renovate laboratory space to increase
efficiency.
The degree of reliance on federal funding
reported by many laboratories suggests
a critical need for state and local governments to seriously evaluate investment
in their own forensic crime laboratories.
Without a commitment to find permanent
funding solutions for crime laboratories,
it is likely that laboratory dependence on
federal grants will continue.
2. Convicted Offender and Arrestee
Backlog Reduction Programs. The software available in CODIS allows DNA analysts to automatically check unsolved case
DNA profiles against profiles of convicted
offenders and arrestees stored in CODIS.
When a match is made, investigators get
a lead as to the potential perpetrator of an
unsolved crime.

Making Sense of DNA Backlogs — Myths vs. Reality

Delays and backlogs in testing convicted
offender and arrestee samples and uploading their DNA profiles into CODIS limit
the potential to identify suspects and may
result in additional victimization by repeat
offenders. Delays in uploading DNA profiles from both casework and convicted
offender and arrestee samples give law
enforcement fewer opportunities to get
a match, identify and arrest a culprit, and
prevent a future crime.

“The Kentucky State Police Forensic
Laboratory is indebted to the National
Institute of Justice and its continued support
for the DNA operations of the Kentucky State
Police Forensic Laboratory. Without this
valuable funding, backlogs would be on the
rise instead of steadily falling and the laboratory would have no choice but to severely
restrict the number and/or types of cases
accepted for DNA analysis. Beyond meeting
the needs of today, the consistent support is
allowing us to build for the future.“

Exhibit 4 shows the status of backlogs in
convicted offender and arrestee samples
between 2007 and 2008.
Exhibit 4 also shows that between 2007
and 2008 the submission of new DNA
samples from convicted offenders and
arrestees increased. At the same time,
the number of samples processed and
completed decreased. This decrease may
result in a rise in the number of backlogged
samples at year’s end. At least another
year’s worth of data is required before any
trends can be established regarding backlogs of convicted offender and arrestee
samples. Even with another year of data,

— Laura Sudkamp
Laboratory Manager
Kentucky State Police Forensic Laboratories

however, trends may be hard to establish
because state legislatures continue to
pass laws expanding the collection of DNA
and uploading of the profiles into CODIS.
The lower turnaround time for arrestee
samples is directly proportional to the fact
that there were fewer samples being collected from arrestees during 2008 than

Exhibit 4. DNA database sample backlogs trends from 2007-2008

Beginning backlog
January 1

2007 Convicted
Offenders

2008 Convicted
Offenders

2008 Arrestees

2008 Totals
(Convicted Offenders
+ Arrestees)

841,847

426,620

28,544

455,164

New receipts

1,021,930

1,267,504

80,609

1,348,113

Completed samples

1,206,612

952,039

57,386

1,009,425

Average turnaround
time

Not available

153 days

42 days

Not available

Sources: 2007 data from “2007 DNA Evidence and Offender Analysis Measurement, DNA Backlogs, Capacity and Funding,”
January 2010, NFSTC; 2008 data provided to NIJ by applicants to the FY 2009 DNA Backlog Reduction Program.

7

Special Report /June 2010

from convicted offenders. Some of the
difference may also be due to requirements mandated by some states to process arrestee samples more quickly than
offender samples.
NIJ offers two programs to help laboratories reduce the backlog of convicted
offender and arrestee samples:
1. Convicted Offender/Arrestee DNA
Backlog Reduction Program. Funds from
this program are delivered in the form of
grants to state agencies responsible for
database sample analysis. Between 2005
and 2009, NIJ made more than $32 million available to the nation’s DNA database
laboratories to reduce the backlog of convicted offender and arrestee samples. See
exhibit 5.
2. Convicted Offender/Arrestee Backlog
Reduction Outsourcing Program. Funds
from NIJ’s Convicted Offender/Arrestee
Backlog Reduction Outsourcing Program
are delivered via federal contracts to pay
vendors directly for samples residing in a
state’s backlog. Exhibit 6 shows funding
levels by year.
Since 2005, the two programs together
have provided funds to help test more
than 1.6 million convicted offender and
arrestee samples and have made possible
more than 56,000 reviews of profiles generated from this analysis. The result has
been more than 15,000 CODIS hits.

8

Exhibit 5. Funding for in-house convicted offender/
arrestee backlog reduction
Year

Funding Provided

2005

$4,746,710

2006

$6,669,608

2007

$5,486,756

2008

$6,022,421

2009

$9,178,072

Total

$32,103,567

Exhibit 6. Funding for outsourcing of convicted
offender/arrestee backlog reduction
Year

Funding Provided

2005

$2,562,105

2006

$9,741,077

2007

$7,947,984

2008

$790,208

2009

$665,104

Total

$21,706,478

Making Sense of DNA Backlogs — Myths vs. Reality

An Overview of DNA Activities at NIJ
Solving Cold Cases With DNA
NIJ has a program supporting the resolution of
older cold cases using DNA technologies. For
more information on this program visit http://
www.dna.gov/solving-crimes/cold-cases.
Missing Persons
NIJ has funded the collection and analysis of DNA
from cases involving missing persons and unidentified remains, and supports laboratories that
perform this type of work. For more information on
this program, visit http://www.dna.gov and click on
the link for Identifying Persons and Victims.
In 2007, NIJ launched the National Missing and
Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). NamUs
is the first national online repository designed
to help medical examiners and coroners share
information about missing persons and the
unidentified dead. For more information on this
program, or to report a missing person, visit
http://www.namus.gov.
Post-Conviction Testing
Since the advent of forensic DNA analysis, a
number of people convicted of crimes have been
subsequently exonerated through DNA analysis
of crime scene evidence that was not tested at
the time of trial. To learn more about NIJ’s efforts
to support post-conviction testing visit http://
www.dna.gov/funding/postconviction.

and forensic DNA analysts. To review the portfolio of training opportunities, visit http://www.
dna.gov/training.
Improving DNA Unit Efficiency
NIJ has supported the development of novel
and innovative technologies towards improving
the efficiency of DNA unit operations. To learn
more about this program, visit http://www.dna.
gov/funding/laboratory-efficiency.
Research and Development
NIJ uses novel ways to harness the tremendous
growth in fields such as molecular biology,
genetics and biotechnology, and direct it toward
the development of highly discriminating, reliable, cost-effective and rapid forensic DNA
testing methods. As a result, NIJ has developed
technologies that have:
n

	Increased the success rate of the analysis of
samples (such as skeletal remains) that are
degraded, damaged, limited in quantity or otherwise compromised.

n

	Improved the examination of sexual assault
evidence.

n

	Miniaturized the DNA testing process and
made it field-portable.

For more information on NIJ’s DNA Research
and Development Portfolio visit http://www.dna.
gov/research.

Training
NIJ has supported the development of training
for law enforcement officers, officers of the court

9

Special Report /June 2010

Notes
1. Strom, Kevin J., Jeri Ropero-Miller, Shelton Jones,
Nathan Sikes, Mark Pope, and Nicole Horstmann,
The 2007 Survey of Law Enforcement Forensic
Evidence Processing, Research Triangle Park, NC:
RTI International, October 2009, NCJ 228415, http://
www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/228415.pdf.
2. Read more about evidence in law enforcement
agencies on NIJ’s Web topic page at http://
www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/topics/law-enforcement/
handling-evidence/unanalyzed-evidence.htm.

3. Cantillon, Dan, Kathy Kopiec, and Heather Clawson,
Evaluation of the Impact of the Forensic Casework
DNA Backlog Reduction Program, Fairfax, VA: ICF
International, February 2009, NCJ 225803, http://
www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/225803.pdf.
4. National Forensic Science Technology Center,
“2007 DNA Evidence and Offender Analysis
Measurement: DNA Backlogs, Capacity and
Funding,” January 2009, final report submitted to
NIJ, grant no. 2006-MU-BX-K002, NCJ 230328,
http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/nij/grants/230328.pdf.

Learn More
About benchmarking in forensic science laboratories:
	 Houck, Max M., Richard A. Riley, Paul J. Speaker, and Tom S. Witt, “FORESIGHT: A Business
Approach to Improving Forensic Science Services,” in Forensic Science Policy and Management:
An International Journal 1 (2) (May 2009): 85–95.

n	

n 	 About the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS):
	 http://www.fbi.gov/hq/lab/codis/clickmap.htm.
n 	 About untested evidence in law enforcement agencies:
	 http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/topics/law-enforcement/handling-evidence/unanalyzed-evidence.htm.
n 	 About using DNA in property crimes:
	 —Ritter, Nancy, “DNA Solves Property Crimes (But Are We Ready for That?),” NIJ Journal 261
(October 2008): 2–12, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/journals/261/dna-solves-property-crimes.htm.
—Web topic page: http://www.dna.gov/solving-crimes/property-crimes.

10

About the National Institute of Justice
A component of the Office of Justice Preograms, NIJ is the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice. The Institute’s mission is to advance scientific
research, development and evaluation to enhance the administration of justice and public safety. NIJ’s principal authorities are derived from the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act
of 1968, as amended (see 42 U.S.C. §§ 3721–3723).
The NIJ Director is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Director establishes the Institute’s objectives, guided by the priorities of the Office of Justice Programs, the
U.S. Department of Justice, and the needs of the field. The Institute actively solicits the views of
criminal justice and other professionals and researchers to inform its search for the knowledge
and tools to guide policy and practice.

To find out more about the National
Institute of Justice, please visit:

Strategic Goals

or contact:

NIJ has seven strategic goals grouped into three categories:

Creating relevant knowledge and tools
1.	Partner with state and local practitioners and policymakers to identify social science research
and technology needs.
2.	Create scientific, relevant, and reliable knowledge—with a particular emphasis on terrorism,
violent crime, drugs and crime, cost-effectiveness, and community-based efforts—to enhance
the administration of justice and public safety.
3.	Develop affordable and effective tools and technologies to enhance the administration of
­justice and public safety.

Dissemination
4.	Disseminate relevant knowledge and information to practitioners and policymakers in an
understandable, timely and concise manner.
5.	Act as an honest broker to identify the information, tools and technologies that respond to
the needs of stakeholders.

Agency management
6.	Practice fairness and openness in the research and development process.
7.	Ensure professionalism, excellence, accountability, cost-effectiveness and integrity in the management and conduct of NIJ activities and programs.

Program Areas
In addressing these strategic challenges, the Institute is involved in the following program
areas: crime control and prevention, including policing; drugs and crime; justice systems and
offender behavior, including corrections; violence and victimization; communications and information technologies; critical incident response; investigative and forensic sciences, including
DNA; less-lethal technologies; officer protection; education and training technologies; testing
and standards; technology assistance to law enforcement and corrections agencies; field testing
of promising programs; and international crime control.
In addition to sponsoring research and development and technology assistance, NIJ evaluates
programs, policies, and technologies. NIJ communicates its research and evaluation findings
through conferences and print and electronic media.

www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij

National Criminal Justice
Reference Service
P.O. Box 6000
Rockville, MD 20849–6000
800–851–3420
e-mail: askncjrs@ncjrs.gov

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