Senate passes Schuitmaker bill requiring DNA collection from prisoners

LANSING—All incarcerated criminals in Michigan will have to give a DNA sample to state Department of Corrections officials by Jan. 1, 2012 if legislation passed today by the Senate becomes law.

Senate Bill 346, sponsored by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, requires DNA collection from all currently incarcerated individuals who have yet to provide a sample, and from all new convicts within 90 days of entering the prison population.

“This bill, simply stated, is about making sure justice is done,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Far too many have suffered for far too long as their cases languished, unsolved, in the criminal justice system. Victims and their families have had to endure constant fear, not knowing when or even if their assailants will be brought to justice.

“By requiring the DNA collection of all state inmates, we offer valuable information to unsolved investigations and hope of ultimately providing answers for victims and their families.”

A rape victim testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee when the legislation was being debated and urged lawmakers to approve Schuitmaker’s bill. The victim was sexually assaulted in her home in 1998 at the age of 13. The case went unsolved until 2005 when DNA from the crime scene was matched to a man who had recently been paroled. His DNA sample was collected at the time of parole as is required under current law. The victim said the passage of SB 346 would help solve similar cases much more quickly, and bring justice to those who deserve it.

Schuitmaker also highlighted the potential cost savings to taxpayers that may come from collecting DNA samples up front. Tens of thousands of tax dollars are spent each year investigating and litigating crimes, and over an extended period those expenses can add up. By requiring DNA collection of all inmates at the outset, generally at less than $10 per test, the probability that a crime might be solved sooner greatly increases. Under existing law, DNA collection comes at the end of a prison term, and in some cases requires search warrants. In others, it requires the exhumation of a body because a prisoner has died while incarcerated.

“In addition to making no sense, collecting DNA samples at the back end of a prison sentence has proven costly, and far exceeds that of a $10 swab of the mouth when a prisoner is booked,” said Schuitmaker. “This is a simple, necessary reform that will save money and hopefully help bring some peace of mind to our state’s many crime victims.”

SB 346 now goes to the state House of for consideration.