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California Approves Forced DNA Extractions

California's Governor Gray Davis authorized the use of force to take DNA samples from state prisoners, when he signed Senate Bill 1242 into law on Sept. 17, 2002.

Existing California Penal Code §§ 296, 296.1 and 296.2 codify the requirement and procedure for taking DNA samples from specified incarcerated violent felons. [These were upheld by a state appeals court. See article below.] However, sanctions for failure to voluntarily submit have proven insufficient to convince over 400 prisoners to cooperate.

The ACLU and the criminal defense bar, when reviewing the proposed forced compliance bill, complained that it would lead to excessive violence by prison guards. Accordingly, a provision was adopted requiring clear procedures and guidelines for DNA extractions, including full video-taping.

Governor Davis was not worried that this new law would open the door for prisoner litigation over excessive force. "I have a lot of confidence in correctional officers ... in this state," he said. Considering that in the three weeks prior to September 6, 2002, the state prison guards' union had donated $600,000 of a recent $1 million additional pledge to Davis' current reelection campaign, followed by another $200,000 just before the DNA bill was signed, his confidence would appear to be well-placed.

Sources: San Francisco Daily Journal, Sacramento Bee, San Francisco Chronicle

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