SPRINGFIELD – To aid investigators in solving more crimes, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that requires DNA samples from all people in prison – including those who have received life sentences or the death penalty. Since August of 2002, every felon has been required to submit a DNA sample after sentencing, and every felon in Department of Corrections custody has been required to submit a DNA sample prior to their release from prison – but some of the state’s most dangerous felons who were already in state custody before August 2002 have not submitted samples because they will not be released. A person’s DNA is a genetic fingerprint that can be used to solve crimes when biological evidence is left at the scene.
“DNA is the most powerful forensic tool available to law enforcement. Before this legislation, some of this state’s most violent predators were not required to provide DNA samples. By collecting samples from criminals on death row and those serving life sentences, police may be able to solve crimes that have languished for years and provide some closure to victims and their families,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
Sponsored by Sen. Iris Y. Martinez (D – Chicago) and Rep. William Delgado (D – Chicago), House Bill 992 requires newly admitted inmates sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty to provide samples of blood, saliva or tissue for the collection of DNA within 45 days after sentencing. Inmates who have been sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty prior to this bill being signed must produce samples of blood, salvia or tissue for the collection of DNA upon request. The bill is effective immediately.
“The bill helps to better serve and protect the citizens of Illinois,” said Sen. Martinez. “This bill ensures that all inmates must now provide a DNA sample, which helps generate data on particular profiles as well as assist law enforcement agencies to develop investigative leads.”
“The passage of this bill into law is a triumph for the citizens of the state,” said Rep. Delgado. “The residents of Hermosa, Humboldt Park, and Belmont-Craigin expect the criminal justice system to protect them and serve justice. This is just one more tool we can use to protect people. By requiring a sample from these criminals, law enforcement officials will be able to link perpetrators to previously committed crimes that may otherwise have gone unsolved. My hopes are that this legislation will help to bring some type of relief and closure to the families of victims.”
“The Illinois Department of Corrections is dedicated to collecting DNA from all inmates, including those sentenced to life and the death penalty,” said IDOC Director Roger E. Walker Jr. “This crucial law will help to determine if any individuals are linked to or involved in an unsolved crime or on-going investigation.”
IDOC reports that all six inmates on death row have been DNA tested because they were sentenced after August of 2002. Out of the 1,349 inmates serving life sentences, 208 have not been DNA tested, but will be as a result of the new law. Since August 2002, when an Illinois law went into effect that required law enforcement officers to take DNA samples from every convicted felon and sex offender, 93,929 felons have been DNA tested.
The Illinois State Police (ISP), which manages the state’s database of DNA profiles (Combined DNA Index System) was a strong supporter of the new law. Over the past two years, the Governor and the Illinois State Police have taken steps to clear the DNA backlog so the results can be used as soon as possible by investigators. In Fiscal Year 2004, Gov. Blagojevich directed $2.6 million to hire 13 new forensic scientists and to outsource existing samples for analysis while the new scientists underwent training. In addition, six new DNA evidence technicians were hired to assist with the DNA case backlog. The DNA labs also secured three grants from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and one from National Institute of Justice, for a total of $1.7 million. The Governor again allocated $2.67 million in FY05 to continue private work on the DNA backlog while 13 scientists completed the final stages of training. In FY06, the state will continue to fund the DNA testing program and continue to help eliminate backlog and keep pace with the influx of offender samples.
In February of this year, the Governor announced that the Illinois State Police reduced the DNA Case and Offender Sample backlog to its lowest level in more than five years. There were 158 cases awaiting analysis, down from more than 1,100 cases the year before. The reductions – which continue today – are a result of the administration’s efforts to secure both state revenue and federal grant funding to speed up analysis of the cases in-house as well as outsourcing to a private vendor. ISP expects to completely eliminate the backlog later this summer.
“Governor Blagojevich provided us with the funding necessary to analyze thousands of samples previously backlogged within our crime labs. Investigators now have conclusive information to assist them in solving open cases,” stated Larry Trent, Director of the ISP. “In many instances, the information contained in these DNA samples can provide an indelible link to criminals attempting to elude authorities.”