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Campaign: NIJ Needs to Continue Funding of DNA Analysis

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I have received potentially devastating news for families of the missing. The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has decided to end funding for DNA analysis for missing persons and unidentified remains after this year.

With approximately 600,000 + missing persons reported per year, and an estimated 40,000 + unidentified persons, the impact on the budgets of local law enforcement, coroners’ offices, the state, and other impacted entities to take over these costs would be massive.  Families of the missing should not be forced or expected to incur these charges.

DNA has become a key and critical factor in resolving these cases. Countless cases have been solved using this technology, providing much needed answers for grieving families. In cases of foul play, it gives law enforcement a path for criminal investigation often resulting in justice, and fewer criminals on our streets, left to commit more crimes.

We have been told that it is possible we can get the NIJ to reverse this decision. We need to work together to make this happen. We are asking interested persons to write letters to the 2 addresses listed below the statement. Ask these government representatives to rescind this decision. This needs to be done within weeks, if not sooner.  Please do not delay. In doing this, you are helping families of the missing today, and all who will sadly and surely follow.  Without DNA analysis, the suffering families will be left in the trauma of ambiguous loss, possibly forever.

Steps to take:

Share this event with like-minded persons who will help.

Draft and mail letter to reps explaining your involvement or interest in missing persons and ask them to reinstate the funding. (My personal letter is found below the Official Statement.)

Official Statement:

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has made the decision to discontinue funding for the Using DNA Technology to Identify the Missing award after this year.  Many laboratories have been past recipients of this award, which provides funding for forensic DNA and anthropological services to resolve missing and unidentified person cases across the country. Absence of future funding for these services will negatively impact thousands of law enforcement agencies, medical examiners, and coroners across the country who depend upon the valuable resources this funding provides; however, most important, families may never find their missing loved one or see perpetrators brought to justice without this funding. 

 Identifying human remains is often the first step to resolving a homicide investigation, and without accessible and affordable forensic DNA services, many investigations will never be resolved.  Last year, over 600,000 people – both adults and children – were reported missing in the United States, many under suspicious circumstances, including homicide.  Funds from the Using DNA Technology to Identify the Missing award allow many of these victims to be identified through DNA testing and Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) hits. These resources benefit local, state, and federal agencies throughout the country, as well as the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).  If DNA laboratories are no longer able to provide free DNA services through this award, the effectiveness of these agencies will be hampered, and families across the United States may never locate their missing loved ones or see justice served. 

It is important that OJP/NIJ continues to support this critical component of the criminal justice system.  Please take a moment to tell OJP/NIJ leadership how important this award is to you, as a family member impacted by a missing or deceased loved one who relies/relied upon these services for resolution, by sending a letter to:

Office of Justice Programs

National Institute of Justice 

Attn:  Nancy Rodriguez& Karol Mason

810 7th St. N.W.   

Washington, DC 20531

Sally Yates, Deputy Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

My personal letter:

I was shocked and dismayed to learn that the NIJ is no longer going to provide funding for the analysis of DNA for missing and unidentified persons.

You know the numbers and you know of the numerous success cases from utilizing this technology. I don’t need to repeat those.

My own son, Jason Jolkowski, has been missing without a trace from Omaha, NE since June 13, 2001. 15 years is a very long time to live without answers. Our family is entirely grateful to have had the assistance of these grants to obtain family reference sample DNA, which has been submitted into CODIS.

We are not alone in having a case in which we have no dental records or fingerprints to identify Jason, should his body be found. Not only is DNA our only hope, but we also must depend on a coroner’s office with custody of his body to have knowledge of best practice and submit the DNA of the remains for analysis and entry into CODIS.  If his body has already been found, we wait and hope that the authorities in that location will do the right thing, but without funding, those odds decrease  greatly. In addition, if his body were to be found in the future, a future without this funding, it’s highly unlikely that DNA analysis will be performed.  This means that my family will likely NEVER have answers.

This also means that the thousands upon thousands of other families in a similar situation will also not have answers.

You are also aware that resolving a missing person case means that law enforcement now can do a proper investigation in cases of foul play, potentially bringing about justice and keeping these criminals off our streets where they are free to commit more crimes. More crimes equal more law enforcement efforts needed, which means more money for local agencies and states who are already fighting tight budget constraints.

Another impact is on the family members of missing persons. The ongoing trauma of ambiguous loss takes a clear toll on the mental and physical health of the person. Many are forced to seek treatment for a variety of ailments that are a result of this trauma. Some may even become incapacitated and unable to function as they had prior, potentially requiring local or state government assistance.  It is imperative to solve missing person cases as quickly as possible to avoid additional stresses on the families of the missing. Everyone deserves answers.

NIJ provides NCMEC with $28 million in funding per year. This issue is not one of missing children versus missing adults, but is for all missing persons. Keep in mind, however, that there is little to no government assistance in cases of missing adults. Services such as the DNA funding, NamUs, and labs like CHI need to remain intact. Please don’t take away what little we have.

Let’s be clear: Without NIJ funding for DNA analysis, everyone loses. (Except for the criminals)

Please reconsider this decision. We’re all counting on you.

Kelly Murphy, Mother of Missing Jason Jolkowski
President and Founder,
Project Jason


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