Within the past week, several state crime labs have announced that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has granted additional funds to their laboratories for the purpose of forensic DNA testing.
New York Senator Charles Schumer announced on September 17 that more than $500,000 in grant money will be split between Nassau and Suffolk counties. According to the DOJ, the funds must be used to reduce backlog or a laboratory’s turnaround time for analyzing DNA evidence samples. Some plans for the additional money include purchasing new state-of the art equipment and upgrading current computer equipment. Since 2005, New York crime labs have seen a steady increase in forensic cases. With the additional funding, the labs hope to maintain a reasonable turnaround time for DNA analysis of criminal evidence.
Across the country, in Bismarck, North Dakota, the state’s congressional delegation announced that $100,000 will be awarded to their state crime lab. The grant was requested by the state in preparation for an increase in forensic caseload as a result of a new law requiring anyone arrested for a felony to provide a DNA sample. This new legislative mandate will take effect in August 2009. Funding will be used to purchase more equipment, improve existing equipment, and increase the capacity of the crime lab.
Finally, the Virginia Department of Forensic Science was granted $4.5 million in funding for a new DNA program directed at finding inmates who may have been wrongfully convicted of a crime. The post-conviction program will conduct DNA analysis of evidence from certain forensic cases stored from 1973 to 1988. The program was ordered by Governor Mark R. Warner in 2005 after forensic DNA testing cleared five men of crimes they did not commit.
These new grants indicate the level of dedication and commitment set by the Department of Justice and insure that forensic crime labs have the necessary tools to assist in the prosecution of criminals and the vindication of the innocent.