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Measuring DNA information provides needed crime lab incentives

Washington, DC

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) requested public comment on advancing forensic science. One concern was improving the management of forensic science service providers, such as crime laboratories handling DNA evidence.

Dr. Mark Perlin, President of the nonprofit Justice through Science organization, responded to DOJ's request. He discussed mixtures of two or more people, the majority of DNA evidence. Service providers fail to extract from mixture data identification information needed for criminal justice. This failure harms society.

Dr. Perlin wrote, "The root cause of this costly government waste is unaligned incentives. The public requires DNA information, yet providers are rewarded for processing samples, not for producing information."

He proposed DOJ "institute incentives for service providers that encourage producing DNA identification information." No such incentives are currently in place. To receive federal funding, service providers should report their success and failure in getting useful information from DNA mixtures.

Government can easily measure how well service providers produce useful criminal justice information. Assessing information outcomes would properly align provider incentives with society's needs.


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