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50,000 Illinois Felons Released Without DNA Collection

Approximately 50,000 felons have been released from Illinois prisons and discharged from probation supervision without having their DNA collected, state officials acknowledged in September 2009.

Illinois law requires all felons sentenced on or after August 22, 2002 to provide a DNA sample. The samples are stored in CODIS, a national registry run by the federal government.
Since the Illinois law took effect, some 10,000 prisoners have been released from state prisons without providing a DNA sample, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections. Another 40,000 probationers have been released from supervision without supplying samples, the state Attorney General’s office estimates.

“Serial murderers and rapists have probably remained on the loose, and families have continued to suffer,” stated DuPage County State’s Attorney Joseph Birkett. “We need to find a way to get that DNA.”

The failure to collect DNA from prisoners and probationers was attributed to delays in implementing the 2002 law. Such delays are nothing new; currently, there is a multi-year backlog for entering DNA samples into CODIS. Further, the State Police, which administers Illinois’ DNA collection program, did not have enough DNA sample kits, and probation officials lacked sufficient medical staff to draw blood to obtain the samples until 2004, when the process was changed to only require a cheek swab.

Illinois officials are now in the process of tracking down released prisoners to obtain missing DNA samples. Last month, PLN reported a similar problem with DNA samples not being collected from Wisconsin prisoners. [See: PLN, May 2010, p.44].

Sources: Associated Press, Chicago Tribune

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