U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Postconviction DNA Testing Is at Core of Major NIJ Initiatives

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2009
8 pages
Publication Series
This article suggests ways to overcome barriers to postconviction DNA testing, which is at the core of major initiatives of the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
DNA technology helps identify offenders and eliminate innocent suspects. Increasingly, DNA has been used to exonerate the wrongly convicted; however, using DNA in the postconviction environment presents many challenges. One challenge involves finding old biological evidence that may or may not have been retained by law enforcement agencies. Biological evidence remains stable when it is properly collected and stored, and scientific advances in DNA technology make it possible to reanalyze evidence in closed and cold cases. The challenge is for police agencies and forensic laboratories with limited space and even more limited budgets to find ways to preserve and store DNA evidence. Another challenge is the backlog of samples that await DNA testing. The backlog is even greater when taking into account evidence that was tested for DNA at the time of an investigation but remains to be tested with updated, more sensitive techniques. NIJ is working to address some of the challenges in postconviction DNA testing. In 2008, NIJ awarded nearly $8 million to five States to assist them in identifying eligible cases and defray the costs of postconviction DNA testing. NIJ is seeking to help many more States apply for Federal assistance. Last year, NIJ assembled a steering committee of criminal justice experts to help it develop the agenda for a symposium that will identify strategies for overcoming challenges presented by postconviction cases in State and local jurisdictions. NIJ is also funding the evaluation of postconviction programs in Virginia and Arizona and is planning to fund an independent review of the exonerations of people who were wrongfully convicted. 5 notes

Date Published: March 1, 2009