NIJ Journal 270: NIJ Bulletin

Publications in Brief

DNA for the Defense Bar

NIJ's DNA for the Defense Bar is the fourth publication in a collection created to provide the criminal justice field with the most up-to-date information about DNA and how it can be used in the courtroom. Specifically designed as a resource for criminal defense attorneys, DNA for the Defense Bar was produced by a multidisciplinary working group with oversight by the National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law at Stetson University College of Law.

Topics covered include:

  • The biology of DNA
  • Proper collection procedures for DNA evidence
  • Interpretation of DNA analysis and findings
  • When and why an expert is needed
  • Development of case theory in a DNA-based prosecution or a case in which there should be DNA evidence
  • Legal issues for pretrial and trial in cases with DNA evidence
  • Postconviction cases

Public Safety Bomb Suit Standard and Certification Program Requirements

Ensuring the safety of law enforcement officers is among NIJ's top priorities. To address the safety needs of bomb technicians, NIJ recently released the Public Safety Bomb Suit Standard (NIJ Standard-0117.00). This voluntary standard addresses subjects ranging from foot protection to blast overpressure. Experienced practitioners, technical experts and proper testing contributed to the development of the standard.

NIJ also released the Public Safety Bomb Suit Standard Certification Program Requirements (NIJ CR-0117.00), which provides the latest information on how to receive and retain accreditation. It also includes the International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission Guide 65 requirements.

The program requirements in this document help ensure that manufacturers and suppliers of bomb suits adhere to the Public Safety Bomb Suit Standard.

Both publications are available on NCJRS.gov:

News & Notes

NIJ and Australia Partner on Forensics

NIJ Director John Laub and National Institute of Forensic Science Director Alastair Ross signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to join forces in the area of forensics.

The MOU gives the United States and Australia an opportunity to combine their research and development efforts in evaluating and using new forensic technologies.

"I continue to believe in the multiplying force of such partnerships to spark scientific synergy and creativity," stated Laub.

This is NIJ's second MOU on forensic science; the first was with the Netherlands.

Deterrence and the Death Penalty

Current research is not useful in determining whether capital punishment is less or more effective as a deterrent than alternative punishments, such as a life sentence without the possibility of parole. This finding is from a new report from the National Research Council. The report was funded in part by NIJ.

Newest Research Findings

Examining Kansas' 123 Bill

While other states were repealing mandatory prison sentences for simple drug possession, Kansas was creating mandatory probation sentences. Kansas Senate Bill 123 (SB 123), signed into law in 2003, requires mandatory community-based supervision and substance abuse treatment for nonviolent individuals convicted of a first or second offense of drug possession.

Researchers conducted a study to evaluate the effectiveness of this bill. The study examined the bill's impact on the following:

  • Diversion, recidivism and prison populations
  • Sentencing practices and sentence lengths
  • Supervision practices and interactions across criminal justice agencies

The results from the research showed that SB 123 improved the lines of communication between agencies. For example, SB 123 helped promote a team approach between supervising officers, drug treatment providers and probationers. However, the research also showed that SB 123 diverted few individuals from prison at sentencing, had no impact on recidivism rates relative to other community-based sanctions and had a minimal impact on prison populations. During the first three years, the bill reduced admissions to prison by diverting between 122 and 214 prison-bound individuals at sentencing. The researchers concluded that the minimal impact of SB 123 resulted from structural aspects of the law, including narrow eligibility requirements and mandatory sentencing and supervision procedures.

Violence Against Women: Special Issue on the Criminal Justice Response to Sexual Violence

This collection features four articles by preeminent researchers deeply involved in partnerships with practitioners working in the field. The introduction by guest editors Bethany Backes, a social science analyst at NIJ, and Catherine McNamee, a program analyst at the Bureau of Justice Assistance, describes the research investment made by NIJ to increase the capabilities of law enforcement and forensic science to provide victims with just outcomes and hold offenders accountable.

Since 2001, NIJ has supported research that helps inform and improve criminal justice practice and response. In 2008, the Institute held a workshop that brought researchers, service providers and forensic experts together to discuss sexual violence. The workshop helped direct NIJ's focus to three major areas: multidisciplinary responses, forensics and criminal justice responses. Read a detailed summary of the workshop.

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Look for multimedia links throughout this issue of the NIJ Journal. On the NIJ website, look for the following new content:

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Date Created: June 21, 2012