The Office of Justice Programs Convicted Offender
DNA Sample Backlog Reduction Grant Program
Report No. 02-20
Office of the Inspector General
In early 2001, state and local DNA laboratories estimated that, at the end of 2000, they held over 745,000 convicted offender DNA samples that had been collected and were awaiting analysis. To aid in reducing this national convicted offender DNA sample backlog, The Office of Justice Programs Convicted Offender DNA Sample Backlog Reduction Grant Program (Program), administered by the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs (OJP), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), was developed. The Program's objective is to rapidly accelerate the analysis of convicted offender samples collected by states, thereby reducing and ultimately eliminating the national convicted offender DNA sample backlog. OJP used approximately $14.5 million appropriated by Congress under the Crime Information Technology Act (CITA) to fund the first year of the Program. A total of 21 states applied for grants in the Program's first year, with each state receiving the entire amount requested. States used the funds to hire contractor laboratories to analyze their backlogged convicted offender samples so that the resultant DNA profiles could be entered into the National DNA Index System (NDIS)1 and assist in solving crimes. This national database is used by participating state forensic laboratories to compare DNA profiles, with the goal of matching case evidence to other previously unrelated cases or to persons already convicted of specific crimes.
While the Program is designed to span several years, our audit focused on the first year of the Program, Fiscal Year (FY) 2000. We audited the Program to: (1) assess the overall impact of the Program on the national offender backlog; (2) assess the compliance of the selected contractor laboratories with pertinent contractual requirements and with the Quality Assurance Standards for Convicted Offender DNA Databasing Laboratories (Offender QAS), effective April 1, 1999; and (3) evaluate the adequacy of OJP's administration of the Program and monitoring of grantee activities, and determine the extent to which selected grantees had administered their grant and monitored their contractor's activities in accordance with federal and agency requirements and with the Offender QAS.
Our audit work included reviewing OJP documentation, conducting audits of three contractor laboratories,2 and conducting audits of eight grantee state laboratories.3 At the time of our audits, the eight grantee states that we audited had received approximately 69 percent of the FY 2000 Program funding, which accounted for the funding of approximately 186,000 additional offender profiles to be added to the national database. The three contractor laboratories selected for audit received contracts from 14 of the 21 grantee states, accounting for approximately 85 percent of the first year's Program funding.
The Program funded the analysis of over 288,000 samples in its first year. Funds were awarded based on a price of $50 per analyzed sample, a baseline price developed by the National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence. As a condition of each grant, the grantee states were required to analyze, at their own expense, a number of no-suspect cases equal to at least 1 percent of the total number of convicted offender samples for which they were funded. OJP officials stated that the following scenarios qualified as no-suspect cases for the purposes of meeting grant requirements: (1) no suspect was identified in the case, (2) the named suspect was eliminated as a result of the analysis, or (3) the named suspect could not be positively identified due to the lack of a known comparison standard. The states that we audited cited numerous impacts from the Program, including the exoneration of a man who was wrongfully convicted of rape in Texas and the identification of the man who had committed a series of brutal attacks on elderly people in North Carolina.
Despite the Program's results mentioned above, gauging the progress that OJP has made toward achieving the Program's mission of ultimately eliminating the national offender backlog is complicated by the fact that the national offender backlog is continually fluctuating, and is greatly influenced by changes in state offender DNA collection statutes. State laws determine the offenses for which a convicted offender is required to submit a DNA sample for testing, thereby controlling the number of samples that state DNA laboratories are obligated to analyze. During 2001, 7 states expanded their laws to require DNA samples from all felons, which increased the number of states with such legislation to 14 at the end of 2001. The impact of these legislative expansions can be substantial. For example, with the addition of only one non-violent offense to its statute, Florida's annual intake of samples increased from approximately 8,000 to approximately 48,000 samples in one year.
Consequently, to gauge the impact of the first year of the Program apart from the fluctuations in the national offender backlog, we analyzed the productivity statistics at the eight grantee states selected for audit for the 1-year periods before and during the Program grants. In addition, we reviewed documentation to determine whether each of the eight grantee states had administered their grants in accordance with Program requirements and adequately monitored contractor activities per the Offender QAS.
At each of the three selected contractor laboratories, we reviewed policies, procedures, and other documentation to determine if the laboratory was in compliance with the Offender QAS and other Program requirements. We issued three separate audit reports that detailed the results of these contractor laboratory reviews.4
We also reviewed OJP's oversight of the Program to determine if grants were made in accordance with applicable legislation, and whether OJP adequately monitored grantee progress and compliance with Program requirements. In addition, we reviewed OJP's progress toward achieving each of the four performance measurements established for the first year of the Program.
Summary of Findings
Our audit disclosed that while the Program funded the analysis of over 288,000 convicted offender samples that were previously backlogged, it is difficult to determine whether the national offender backlog is actually being eliminated. This determination is complicated by factors including the continuing changes to state statutes requiring greater numbers of people to provide DNA samples and the challenges to the states to respond to this increased demand. In addition, while the Program grants increased the volume of complete offender profiles uploaded to NDIS, two of the eight grantee states we audited showed no increase in productivity in the 1-year period during the grant that we reviewed, due to delays in uploading contractor data to NDIS.
Overall, we concluded that the selected grantee states met the no-suspect match requirement, adequately monitored their contractors, and generally administered their grants in accordance with Program requirements. In addition, the three contractor laboratories that we reviewed materially complied with the Program requirements and the Offender QAS. However, we found that:
To address these deficiencies, we made two recommendations to OJP. We recommended that OJP ensure that data being collected and monitored accurately gauges whether the Program is meeting its mission, and develop and implement written procedures to follow up when grantees fail to comply with grant requirements or fail to file grant reports on a timely basis. The OJP response to our findings and recommendations appears in Appendix V of this report.
The audit results, which include information previously identified in individual contractor laboratory reports, are discussed in greater detail in the Findings and Recommendations section of this report. Our audit objectives, scope, and methodology, and a list of contractor laboratories and grantee states audited appear in Appendix I.