In an effort to reduce turnaround times in the TBI’s Forensic Biology Unit, hundreds of sexual assault kits submitted by law enforcement agencies across the state have been outsourced for laboratory analysis in Florida.
TBI secured $1.5 million in federal grant funding for the project through the Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration’s Office of Criminal Justice Programs. Following a competitive bid process, the state awarded the contract to DNA Labs International (DLI), based in Deerfield Beach, Fla. On Monday, March 6, TBI flew an initial set of 550 kits to DLI, including 250 from the Jackson Crime Laboratory, 250 from Knoxville, and 50 from Nashville.
“We are thankful to our partners for awarding us this funding to help the Bureau take a major step forward in our efforts to analyze these kits,” said Mike Lyttle, Assistant Director of TBI’s Forensic Services Division. “We’re confident this is the right step forward.”
As part of the agreement, DLI will provide analysis and any related courtroom testimony. In line with FBI guidelines, however, TBI scientists must review the results of analysis for each kit and, if warranted, enter resulting DNA profiles into CODIS, the Combined DNA Index System. If more grant funding become available before the end of 2023, the TBI plans to submit up to 1,000 kits for private analysis, at a rate of $2,155 per kit.
“With the help of the Governor’s administration and the Tennessee General Assembly, we’re continuing to take steps to improve our Forensic Services Division,” said TBI Director David Rausch. “This outsourcing project helps us take an immediate step as we continue to discuss longer-term fixes. We’re hopeful the General Assembly will approve budget enhancements called for in Governor Lee’s plan, which we believe addresses key staffing and resource needs to better position TBI for a bright future.”