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ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M. EST BJS FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2000 202/307-0784 SIXTY-NINE PERCENT OF PUBLIC FORENSIC LABORATORIES HAD DNA TEST BACKLOGS IN 1997 WASHINGTON, D.C. The first federal survey of publicly operated forensic crime labs throughout the country has revealed as of December 31, 1997, the labs had at least 6,800 unprocessed DNA cases and an additional 287,000 unprocessed convicted offender DNA samples, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. It said there was a backlog of DNA samples in 69 percent of the 108 laboratories that participated in the 1998 survey. During 1997 public crime labs received about 21,000 cases involving DNA evidence for analysis and processed about 14,000 of those cases. As of June 1998, each of the 50 states statutorily requires the collection of DNA samples from specified convicted offenders, primarily sex offenders and other violent felons. In 1997, laboratories received 116,000 convicted offender samples for analysis, an increase from 72,000 in 1996. Of these totals, only 45,000 were analyzed in 1997 and 37,000 in 1996. To address the backlog, 44 percent of the forensic labs hired additional staff members after 1997, 34 percent had staffers working overtime and 13 percent are contracting out part of the work to private facilities. These efforts are now being supported by an additional fiscal year 2000 congressional appropriation, which provided $15 million to help address the backlog and $15 million for the Crime Laboratory Improvement Program. The survey was conducted as part of the Justice Department's Forensic DNA Laboratory Improvement Program, which was authorized by the DNA Identification Act of 1994, a section of the 1994 Crime Act (Public Law 103-322). The program is intended to improve state and local forensic DNA lab work and increase compliance with the FBI's Combined DNA Index System. The National Institute of Justice funded the survey to help identify workload and technology issues. The special report, "Survey of DNA Crime Laboratories" (NCJ- 179104), was written by BJS statistician Greg W. Steadman. Single copies may be obtained from the BJS fax-on-demand system by dialing 301/519-5550, listening to the complete menu and selecting document number 189. Or call the BJS clearinghouse number: 1-800-732-3277. Fax orders for mail delivery to 410/792-4358. The BJS Internet site is: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/ Additional criminal justice materials can be obtained from the Office of Justice Programs homepage at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov # # # BJS00052 After hours contact: Stu Smith at 301/983-9354