munity, because so many state and local programs currently are suffering for want of adequate resources. In the end, however, the committee recognized that state and local authorities must be willing to enforce change if it is to happen.

In light of the foregoing issues, the committee exercised caution before drawing conclusions and avoided being too prescriptive in its recommendations. It also recognized that, given the complexity of the issues and the political realities that may pose obstacles to change, some recommendations will have to be implemented creatively and over time in order to be effective.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The Fragmented System: Symptoms and Cures

The forensic science disciplines currently are an assortment of methods and practices used in both the public and private arenas. Forensic science facilities exhibit wide variability in capacity, oversight, staffing, certification, and accreditation across federal and state jurisdictions. Too often they have inadequate educational programs, and they typically lack mandatory and enforceable standards, founded on rigorous research and testing, certification requirements, and accreditation programs. Additionally, forensic science and forensic pathology research, education, and training lack strong ties to our research universities and national science assets. In addition to the problems emanating from the fragmentation of the forensic science community, the most recently published Census of Crime Laboratories conducted by BJS describes unacceptable case backlogs in state and local crime laboratories and estimates the level of additional resources needed to handle these backlogs and prevent their recurrence. Unfortunately, the backlogs, even in DNA case processing, have grown dramatically in recent years and are now staggering in some jurisdictions. The most recently published BJS Special Report of Medical Examiners and Coroners’ Offices also depicts a system with disparate and often inadequate educational and training requirements, resources, and capacities—in short, a system in need of significant improvement.

Existing data suggest that forensic laboratories are underresourced and understaffed, which contributes to case backlogs and likely makes it difficult for laboratories to do as much as they could to (1) inform investigations, (2) provide strong evidence for prosecutions, and (3) avoid errors that could lead to imperfect justice. Being underresourced also means that the tools of forensic science—and the knowledge base that underpins the analysis and interpretation of evidence—are not as strong as they could be, thus hindering the ability of the forensic science disciplines to excel at



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