State crime lab pushing out 228,000 cases a year - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

State crime lab pushing out 228,000 cases a year

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

The Mississippi Crime Laboratory processes about 228,000 cases a year, everything from DNA to drunk driving analysis.

In recent years it has received criticism for the length of time it takes to process evidence.

However, Director Sam Howell says things at the lab have improved. .

"DNA is usually done within 30 days. Our DUI cases, so they can go to court, are usually done within 30 days. Most of the drug analysis cases are done within two weeks for the majority of the state," explained Howell.

The legislature increased funding in 2006 allowing the lab to hire 40 technicians and within two years the back log of cases was virtually gone.

Now, many state agencies could be facing budget cuts as lawmakers craft a new budget.

Howell is concerned how funding could impact the lab's work load.

"We've had no increase in funding for the past four years. However, each year we've also gotten a 15% increase in case load each year. So, we are just now starting to see our back log start to go back up and I would hate to go backwards."

The crime lab has four labs across the state. Every law enforcement agency uses one of them at some point.

Howell says if technicians are overloaded, it slows down the entire justice system...from arrests to prosecutions.

Funding has taught the agency how to approach certain cases.

"There are instances where we are prioritizing, trying to do the most with the least. However, when there is a need we will do whatever we need to do to process the evidence," said Howell.

He says the turn over rate is lower at the crime lab than in recent years, and keeping a full staff is putting criminals behind bars.

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