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DNA to be gathered from some inmates

October 13, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Some Washington County Detention Center inmates will have samples of their DNA collected as part of an agreement signed Wednesday by the Sheriff's Department and Maryland State Police.

State Police Secretary Col. Thomas E. Hutchins, Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades, State Police Forensic Sciences Division Director Jay Tobin and Detention Center Warden Lt. Van Evans signed a memorandum of understanding Wednesday at county police headquarters.

The document authorizes two trained correctional deputies to collect DNA samples, taken by swabbing the inside of the mouth, from inmates convicted of felonies.

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Mades estimates samples will be collected during two-week periods from eight to 10 inmates. There are 378 inmates at the jail, but a vast majority are awaiting trial on charges, and only a fraction have been convicted, he said.

The samples will be sent to the state police forensic lab in Pikesville, Md., where the database on the samples is maintained.

Tobin said the sample will be split: One will be logged at the lab and the other will be sent to a subcontracted, accredited DNA lab for processing, he said.

There are 30,000 Maryland criminals whose DNA profiles are contained in the national computer database CODIS, he said.

Of those, 325 samples have matched unknown samples collected from crime scenes, he said.

The number of matches has doubled in the past year because more samples are being sent to the lab, he said, crediting Hutchins for spearheading the campaign.

In 1994, only convicted sex offenders were required to submit DNA samples, State Police Spokesman Greg Shipley said. But the law was expanded in 1999 and 2001 to include other felony convictions, he said.

Shipley said, "there just weren't enough people to do it" at the prison level, which is why it was important to involve other parties, such as county sheriff's departments, to collect samples to expand the database.

"Prisons weren't collecting them," he said. "Jay (Tobin) had to send people in to collect them."

Mades said there are 10 sheriff's departments in the state that run jails. Hutchins said Washington County is the eighth department to join in the DNA collection effort.

"The more people in that database, the more effective it will be," Shipley said. "That's a huge opportunity to solve crimes. We are just to the crest of the wave in these efforts."

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