Crime laboratories throughout the nation continue to face great increases in the number of requests for DNA testing in criminal cases. Congress increased the National Institute of Justice's funding to expand lab capacity and reduce backlogs to $56.3 million in fiscal 2008. The funding enabled crime labs to work on more than 30,000 criminal cases. The program helps labs to improve their capacity. Labs can update instruments, install robotic systems that speed processing and train forensic scientists.
In addition, NIJ's Convicted Offender and/or Arrestee DNA Backlog Reduction Program helps states to process the DNA profiles of people who have been arrested or convicted of certain crimes. The profiles are then placed in a national database. Such profiles have sometimes helped police identify suspects in previously unsolved crime cases. In fiscal 2008, NIJ funding of $7.1 million helped states process more than 200,000 offender DNA samples.
NIJ has also been active in promoting the use of DNA testing to clear the innocent. More than 200 Americans convicted of serious crimes have been freed from prison after DNA testing showed they could not have committed the crimes. Often, DNA testing was not available when they were convicted. In addition, DNA testing has improved a great deal in recent years, and new testing techniques can yield definitive results in cases that may have been inconclusive in the past.
NIJ's Post-Conviction Testing Assistance Program helps states pay for DNA testing in cases where the testing could prove innocence. In fiscal 2008, NIJ awarded some $7.8 million through the program. The funding helps to clear the innocent and can sometimes help to identify the real perpetrators of the crimes. The funding is used in reviews of homicide, manslaughter and rape cases.
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