CHICAGO – On the heels of a new study released today by the U.S. Department of Justice highlighting the drastic need for more funding that could help solve thousands of old and new cases in states like Illinois using DNA technology, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich is calling on the federal government to provide desperately needed dollars that could save lives by taking violent criminals off the streets. A person’s DNA is a genetic fingerprint that can be used to solve crimes such as rape and murder when biological evidence is left on the crime scene. Illinois is one of more than 30 states that collect DNA samples from all convicted felons.
“There is nothing more important than ensuring the safety and security of people throughout Illinois. DNA testing is an incredibly powerful but expensive crime-fighting tool. Illinois needs more dollars from Washington to help us eliminate the backlog of evidence waiting to be tested and to keep up with the approximately 2,850 new cases that will flood our crime labs in the next fiscal year,” Governor Blagojevich said. “We have contributed more than our fair share during these difficult fiscal times. Recently, I allocated an additional $2.6 million that is allowing the Illinois State Police to hire 15 more DNA forensic scientists and test old and new evidence. But we need more help, and we need it now. I will be working with all of Illinois’ elected officials in Washington to make this a priority because solving violent crimes and preventing future crimes can’t wait until our budget problems are resolved.”
Governor Blagojevich will be working with U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), and the rest of Illinois’ Congressional delegation, to ensure that Congress authorizes more critical funding for DNA testing. Fifteen members of the Illinois House delegation were co-sponsors of legislation that recently passed out of the House providing $755 million in funding to states to improve the collection, processing and usage of DNA materials. The bill is pending in the Senate.
"DNA evidence is a powerful crime-fighting tool, but one which must be utilized properly," U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) said. "This year, the House of Representatives passed HR 3214, the ‘Advancing Justice Through DNA Technology Act,’ a bill I co-sponsored. This bill provides funding to speed the processing of DNA evidence and expand forensic laboratories. Equally important, the legislation includes crucial safeguards to ensure DNA evidence is used appropriately, as well as increased funding to strengthen criminal defense in an effort to avoid wrongful conviction. I am pleased to join Governor Blagojevich, Congressman LaHood and others in supporting this important legislation."
Illinois currently has approximately 1,000 DNA cases waiting to be tested. The Illinois State Police (ISP) is projecting almost 240 new cases will require DNA testing each month starting in Fiscal Year 2005 that starts July 1. ISP has seven laboratories equipped to conduct DNA tests with 42 forensic scientists and seven more in training. Despite facing a multi-billion dollar deficit, the Governor recently provided an additional $2.6 million that will help reduce the backlog by having private companies conduct some of the examinations and hiring 15 additional scientists. But the goal is to do all DNA testing in house with reports generated within 30 to 60 days.
The Illinois State Police would use additional federal money to further increase headcount to handle the additional capacity and to help build a multi-purpose laboratory at the ISP Academy in Springfield that would train all new scientists. This centralized location would also help shorten the training process that can last up to 24 months.
“There is another war on terror being fought in laboratories across Illinois, and we need all the ammunition we can muster to arrest rapists and murderers before they strike again. We are making progress, but Illinois needs more federal money to continue solving crimes and eliminate any extensive testing delays,” Governor Blagojevich added.