The Office of Justice Programs Convicted Offender
DNA Sample Backlog Reduction Grant Program

Report No. 02-20
May 2002
Office of the Inspector General


The Department of Justice's (Department) strategic plan states that a key objective is to improve the crime fighting and criminal justice administration capabilities of state, tribal, and local governments. Preventing and reducing crime by assisting these governments in improving their law enforcement capabilities is also a strategic goal of the Department. Because the use of DNA profiles (computerized records containing DNA characteristics used for identification) has become an increasingly important crime fighting tool, the Department has assisted governments in implementing, expanding, or improving their use of DNA technology.

The use of DNA by law enforcement has increased dramatically in recent years and many states have enacted or expanded their DNA-related legislation. Between 1988 and 1998, all 50 states enacted DNA collection statutes. These statutes require that an offender convicted of certain offenses give a DNA sample that will be analyzed and the resulting profile will be added to the state's convicted offender DNA database. If local resources are insufficient for the volume of incoming convicted offender samples, a backlog of unanalyzed samples can result. Consequently, the Department initiated grant programs to strengthen DNA capabilities in state and local laboratories, including The Office of Justice Programs Convicted Offender DNA Sample Backlog Reduction Grant Program (Program), in an effort to reduce the number of convicted offender samples awaiting analysis.

The Combined DNA Index System

As detailed in a prior Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG) audit report,5 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) created a hierarchy of DNA profile indexes, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), as a tool to further the use of DNA in solving crime. CODIS is a national DNA information repository maintained by the FBI that allows state and local crime laboratories to store and compare DNA profiles from crime-scene evidence and from convicted offenders. The goal of the system is to match case evidence to other previously unrelated cases or to persons already convicted of other crimes. Currently, CODIS contains two primary databases: the convicted offender database and the forensic database (which contains the case evidence profiles). DNA profiles are stored in a database with a similar classification (i.e., convicted offender profiles in the convicted offender database). As of December 31, 2001, there were 829,775 convicted offender profiles and 33,131 forensic profiles in the National DNA Index System (NDIS).

State and local crime laboratories that participate in CODIS perform DNA analysis on specimens from crime-scene evidence and from convicted offenders. The FBI provides participating laboratories with special software that organizes and manages the DNA profiles and related information. The software also enables participating laboratories to compare DNA profiles and notifies the appropriate laboratories when two or more DNA profiles match. The Forensic Science Systems Unit, part of the FBI's Laboratory Division, was directly involved in the development of all aspects of CODIS and continues with its oversight.

The Office of Justice Programs Convicted Offender DNA Sample Backlog Reduction Grant Program

The Program, administered by the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), was developed to assist states in reducing or eliminating their offender sample backlogs so that an increased number of profiles could be uploaded to the national DNA database. The mission of the Program is to reduce and ultimately eliminate the convicted offender DNA sample backlog awaiting analysis and entry into the national database.

Congress appropriated $30 million in FY 2000 under the Crime Identification Technology Act (CITA) for grants to states to reduce their DNA backlogs and for the Crime Laboratory Improvement Program (CLIP). Of that amount, approximately $14.5 million was used to fund the first year of the Program. For the first year, grant funds were awarded to states based on submitted proposals, and the states then contracted with private laboratories for the analysis of convicted offender DNA samples.6

The flow of grant funds from OJP to the 21 states receiving the grants and then to the seven contractor laboratories is illustrated in the following graphic:

Grant Program Summary - FY 2000
Office of Justice Programs / National Institute of Justice

Icon representing the Office of Justice Programs and the National Institute of Justice
Office of Justice Programs / National Institute of Justice
Arrow representing the flow of funds to the individual states from OJP.  The individual lab graphics below list the states associated with that lab
Map of the US showing the contractor labs used by each state
Arrow representing the flow of funds to the labs from the individual states.  The individual lab graphics below list the states associated with that lab
States using Myriad Genetic Labs: California, Arizona, Utah, Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, New York and New Jersey  States using Bode Technology Group: Oklahoma, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Michigan  States using ReliaGene Technologies: Washington  States using Lifecodes Corporation: New Mexico and Illinois
States using Fairfax Identity Labs: Kansas and Florida  States using Cellmark Diagnostics: Massachusetts  States using GeneScreen: Arkansas and Alaska
Source: OJP Program records

A total of 21 states applied for grants in the Program's first year, and all received the funding for which they applied, totaling approximately $14.5 million. 7 These states then contracted with seven private laboratories to complete the analysis of approximately 288,000 offender samples, as summarized in the following table:


Grant Funds
Contract Laboratory
1Texas$1,745,55034,911Myriad Genetic Labs
2 California 1,500,000 30,000 Myriad Genetic Labs
3 New York 1,447,400 28,948 Myriad Genetic Labs
4 Ohio 1,330,700 26,614 Myriad Genetic Labs
5 Arizona 201,250 4,025 Myriad Genetic Labs
6 Minnesota 200,000 4,000 Myriad Genetic Labs
7 New Jersey 168,650 3,373 Myriad Genetic Labs
8 Utah 150,000 3,000 Myriad Genetic Labs
9 Virginia 1,800,000 36,000 Bode Technology Group
10 Michigan 717,900 14,358 Bode Technology Group
11 North Carolina 700,000 14,000 Bode Technology Group
12 Pennsylvania 653,100 13,062 Bode Technology Group
13 Oklahoma 250,000 5,000 Bode Technology Group
14 Washington 1,343,100 26,862 ReliaGene Technologies
15 Illinois 481,650 9,633 Lifecodes Corporation
16 New Mexico 477,000 9,540 Lifecodes Corporation
17 Florida 400,000 8,000 Fairfax Identity Labs
18 Kansas 369,900 7,398 Fairfax Identity Labs
19 Massachusetts 351,000 7,020 Cellmark Diagnostics
20 Alaska 80,650 1,613 GeneScreen
21 Arkansas 55,500 1,110 GeneScreen
 TOTALS $14,423,350 288,467 
Source: OJP Program records

The chart on the following page illustrates the distribution of grant funds among the contractor laboratories hired by the grantee states. As the chart illustrates, the top three laboratories contracted with states that received 85 percent of the total grant funds.

Pie chart showing the percentage of total grant funds received by each contractor lab, and corresponding dollar amount to each lab.  Click on the pie chart for a table with the same information.

Source: OJP Grant Tracking Information

Estimates of the National Offender Backlog

While the mission of the Program is to reduce and ultimately eliminate the national offender backlog, measuring whether it is being accomplished is complicated by the fact that the national offender backlog is constantly fluctuating. One of our sources for estimating the magnitude of the national offender backlog was a recommendation made in 1999 by the National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence (Commission) to the Attorney General.

The Commission, which is comprised of officials from both the public and private sectors, was established in March 1998 at the request of the Attorney General to provide recommendations on the current and future use of DNA technology in the criminal justice system. One of the working groups within the Commission was tasked with considering the national offender backlog and the means by which it could be reduced. The Commission determined that there were substantial numbers of convicted offender DNA samples collected by states that had not been analyzed and entered into the national DNA database. Further, the Commission concluded that the states should be able to address the factors8 that were causing each state's offender backlog if additional funds were provided for outsourcing. In its 1999 recommendation, the Commission estimated the national backlog of convicted offender DNA samples at over 700,000.

Another source of national offender backlog estimates has been surveys conducted by the FBI. According to OJP officials, the estimates of the national offender backlog used by OJP in their Program planning were obtained from the FBI's 1999 Laboratory Survey, in which state and local laboratory management reported various productivity and technology statistics. The most recent laboratory survey results available from the FBI were from the 2000 Laboratory Survey, which was conducted in early 2001. Survey recipients were asked to report the number of backlogged samples that were in their laboratories at the end of 2000 and to provide estimates of the number of backlogged samples they expected to have at the end of 2001. The FBI survey placed the national backlog of offender samples at the end of 2000 at 745,821, while the estimates for 2001 indicated a national offender backlog of 681,470 samples.


  1. The prior OIG audit report, titled "The Combined DNA Index System," Report No. 01-26, was issued in September 2001.
  2. The Program changed slightly in its second year (FY 2001). OJP awarded funds directly to "pre-approved" contractor laboratories and the states then sent convicted offender samples to the laboratories of their choice. One effect of this change was the elimination of the delays caused by the state procurement processes experienced in the first year of the Program, as identified in Finding No. 3.
  3. Funds were awarded based on a price of $50 per sample to be analyzed, a baseline price developed by the National Commission on the Future of DNA Evidence. States then negotiated with the contractor laboratories to obtain the best per sample price. Any resultant savings were used for the analysis of additional samples, were returned to OJP, or were to be used for other allowable laboratory improvements in accordance with applicable CLIP guidelines.
  4. See Appendix IV for examples of factors that influence a laboratory's ability to analyze the DNA samples it receives.