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DNA technology is increasingly vital to ensuring accuracy and fairness in the criminal justice system. DNA can be used to identify criminals with incredible accuracy when biological evidence exists, and DNA can be used to clear suspects and exonerate persons mistakenly accused or convicted of crimes.
The Initiative calls for increased funding, training, and assistance — to Federal, State, and local forensic labs; to police; to medical professionals; to victim service providers; and to prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges — to ensure that this technology reaches its full potential to solve crimes, protect the innocent, and identify missing persons. This Initiative has the following specific goals:
- Eliminate the current backlog of unanalyzed DNA samples and biological evidence for the most serious violent offenses — rapes, murders, and kidnappings—and for convicted offender samples needing testing.
- Improve crime laboratories' capacities to analyze DNA samples in a timely fashion.
- Stimulate research and develop new DNA technologies and advances in all forensic sciences areas.
- Develop training and provide assistance about the collection and use of DNA evidence to a wide variety of criminal justice professionals.
- Provide access to appropriate postconviction DNA testing of crime scene evidence not tested at the time of trial.
- Ensure that DNA forensic technology is used to its full potential to solve missing persons cases and identify human remains.
- Protect the innocent.
In August 2001, the Attorney General directed NIJ to assess criminal justice system delays in the analysis of DNA evidence and develop recommendations to eliminate those delays. In response, NIJ convened a working group comprising a broad cross-section of Federal, State, and local criminal justice and forensic science experts. The group met twice in 2002 to discuss the nature and causes of DNA backlogs and possible strategies for reducing the backlogs. Counseled by the findings of this working group, NIJ submitted a report to the Attorney General with a series of recommendations to eliminate the DNA testing backlog and to build the Nation's capacity to routinely use DNA evidence as an investigative tool.
Working Group Membership
On October 30, 2004, the President signed into law the "Justice for All Act of 2004," which establishes enforceable rights for victims of crimes; enhances DNA collection and analysis efforts; provides for post-conviction DNA testing; and authorizes grants to improve the quality of representation in state capital cases. This Act puts into law many of the provisions of the President's Initiative. Full text of the Act.
Speeches and Testimony
Oversight of the Justice for All Act: Has the Justice Department Effectively Administered the Bloodsworth and Coverdell DNA Grant Programs? Statement before the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary , NIJ Deputy Director for Science and Technology Dr. John Morgan, January 23, 2008,
Statement before the Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, Regarding DNA Initiatives, NIJ Director Sarah V. Hart, Mat 14, 2002
Statement before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives, Regarding the President's DNA Initiative, NIJ Director Sarah V. Hart, July 17, 2003
Statement before the Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, Regarding DOJ Oversight: Funding Forensic Sciences, NIJ Director Sarah V. Hart, July 31, 2003
- National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice
- Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice
- Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice
- Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice
- Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice
- Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice
- Justice for All Act of 2004. Public Law 108-405 (HR 108-711). Establishes enforceable rights for victims of crimes; enhances DNA collection and analysis efforts; provides for post-conviction DNA testing; and authorizes grants to improve the quality of representation in state capital cases.
- DNA Backlog Elimination Act (2000). Public Law 106-546 (HR 4640), 42 U.S.
- C.§14135a. To make grants to States for carrying out DNA analyses for use in the Combined DNA Index System of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to provide for the collection and analysis of DNA samples from certain violent and sexual offenders for use in such system, and for other purposes. Including "To carry out, for inclusion in such Combined DNA Index System, DNA analyses of samples from crime scenes."
- Crime Information Technology Act (1996), authorized with the passage of Public Law 105-251 (S. 2022). To provide for the improvement of interstate criminal justice identification, information, communications, and forensics. CITA allowed for grants for programs relating to the identification and analysis of DNA.
- DNA Identification Act of 1994. Public Law 103-322 (HR 3355). This Act modifies the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 by inserting provisions regulating funding of DNA analysis laboratories and authorizing the collection of an index of DNA records and samples, all of which are designed to enhance quality assurance.