Wednesday, Nov. 3


New assistance to fund DNA technology
in Illinois    
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Federal government responds to governor's call with awards to state crime labs

[NOV. 3, 2004]  SPRINGFIELD -- In response to the state's drastic need for more funding to help solve old and new criminal cases in Illinois, Gov. Rod Blagojevich announced Oct. 12 that the Illinois State Police received grants from the U.S. Department of Justice totaling more than $3.2 million to help clear the DNA backlog. These awards follow the governor's call in April to the federal government to provide desperately needed dollars that could save lives by taking violent criminals off the street.

"The safety and security of the citizens of Illinois remain a top priority of my administration," said Gov. Blagojevich. "These additional dollars will help protect our citizens even more by allowing us to use DNA technology -- a powerful, but expensive crime-fighting tool -- to solve violent crimes and prevent future crimes."

"We're in the business of solving crimes, and DNA has proven to be a very valuable crime asset to assist us with getting criminals off the streets," said Illinois State Police Director Larry G. Trent. "This additional funding will help expedite the analysis process and return evidence to investigators across the state in a timely fashion, providing the connection needed to complete their casework."

U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, sponsored the grants from the Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice. The first grant, in the amount of $1,529,577 from the DNA Capacity Enhancement Program, will enhance the DNA analytical capacity at seven DNA laboratories and the DNA Indexing Unit, which uses the CODIS database. The money will also be used to purchase needed computer hardware and software upgrades for current DNA analysis instrumentation and new DNA instrumentation for use by 13 new DNA analysts who were hired in May 2004. The grant will also fund the purchase of additional DNA instrumentation to be used in the DNA Indexing Unit to increase the output capacity of convicted offender samples.

The second grant, in the amount of $1,753,447, will reduce the DNA casework backlog by outsourcing some forensic biology and DNA cases. The Forensic Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program will also allow the Illinois State Police to hire contractual staff to assist with the coordination and implementation of the outsourcing program and to purchase DNA supplies for analyzing cases that are not suitable for outsourcing. Both grants run from Oct. 1, 2004, through March 31, 2006.

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During the past four fiscal years, the Illinois State Police has been appropriated $2.3 million to outsource DNA cases. On July 30, 2004, Gov. Blagojevich dedicated $3.2 million to continue the hiring and training of scientists, as well as the outsourcing program. Since the project began, 6,858 cases have been outsourced, reducing the DNA backlog from a high of 1,236 cases to a low of 175 cases as of June 30, 2004.

Of those cases, 476 "hits" were made to the FBI's national computerized DNA database, known as CODIS, and either provided investigative information by linking cases together or provided a suspect in an unsolved case.

"The power of DNA not only rests in its ability to exonerate falsely accused individuals, but to prevent crimes by quickly identifying suspects through the CODIS database," said Gov. Blagojevich. "This additional funding will make the outsourcing project even more successful in protecting the citizens of Illinois."

[News release from the governor's office]

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