Federal Bureau of Prisons Implements New DNA Collection Policy

Effective February 1, 2011, the Federal Bureau of Prisons instituted national policy in regards to DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) collection. This policy was promulgated under Program Statement #5311.01, entitled ‘Inmate DNA Sample Collection Procedures.’

According to the Program Statement, "DNA analysis provides a powerful tool for human identification. DNA samples collected from individuals or derived from crime scene evidence are analyzed to produce DNA profiles that are entered into the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The practical uses of the DNA profiles (‘genetic fingerprint’) in CODIS are similar to those of actual fingerprints, such as:

•Identifying offenders;

•Excluding innocent persons;

•Solving past and future crimes; and

•Combating recidivism through inclusion in CODIS."

The collection of DNA samples is extended to "individuals who are arrested, facing charges, or convicted or from non-United States, and persons who are detained under the authority of the United States (see 42 U.S.C. § 14135a(9)(1)(A)," according to the program statement. This policy also extends to juveniles. In effect, DNA will be collected from anyone incarcerated in any federal correctional institution or any private correctional institution which houses federal inmates.

Inmates will have their DNA collected typically within 72 hours – but no later than 7 days – of arrival at their designated Federal Bureau of Prison's facility. This sample is collected through the use of a FBI Buccal Swab Collection Kit which utilizes oral swabs as opposed to needles.

The process includes recording the inmate's identification information, fingerprints, and rubbing a toothbrush-like device along the inmate's upper and lower gum lines. The buccal swab acts much like a sponge which collects DNA from the participant. The collection device is then placed in a collection device envelope and mailed via U.S. Mail to the FBI to be analyzed and the results to be maintained in CODIS.

According to the program statement, "Inmates who refuse to provide a DNA sample must first be counseled by appropriate staff (Psychology staff, unit staff, etc.) regarding their obligation to provide a sample and the possible consequences of non-compliance. Counseling must be provided in a format appropriate in content and vocabulary to the inmate's educational level, literacy, and language...Consequences for refusing to provide a DNA sample include an incident report(s), progressive administrative sanctions, and possible criminal prosecution(see 42 U.S.C. § 14135a(a) (5).”

The policy continues, "If an inmate continues to refuse to submit to DNA sampling, progressive sanctions should continue. If these efforts fail, or the inmate is approaching his/her release date, standard 'use of force' protocols (including standard confrontation avoidance procedures) must be invoked, using only the amount of force necessary to obtain a DNA sample. In instances where calculated use of force is necessary, it is recommended that a blood sample be obtained. In any instance where use of force is necessary, Bureau staff must collect the DNA sample (not contractors)."

The constitutionality of forced mass DNA collection aside, this writer hopes that this new Federal Bureau of Prisons' policy will help to make America safer, not just more oppressed.