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Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence

Grants to USA Agencies and IHEs to Analyze
DNA Evidence in Postconviction Cases

Agency Type:

Federal

Funding Source:

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U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), National Institute of Justice (NIJ)

Deadline Date:

04/26/18 11:59 PM ET

Description:

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Grants to USA and territories government agencies and IHEs to defray costs relating to postconviction case reviews, including evidence location and DNA testing in felony case where results might demonstrate innocence. Applicants must create or verify the required registrations well in advance of the deadline date.

Overview:

NIJ seeks proposals for funding to assist in defraying the costs associated with postconviction DNA testing in cases of violent felony offenses (as defined by State law) in which actual innocence might be demonstrated. Funds may be used to identify and review such postconviction cases and to locate and analyze associated biological evidence.

Statutory Authority: Any awards under this solicitation would be made under statutory authority provided by a full-year appropriations act for FY 2018. As of the writing of this solicitation, the Department of Justice is operating under a short-term "Continuing Resolution"; no full-year appropriation for the Department has been enacted for FY 2018.

Important Note:

Applicants should be aware that recently-enacted legislation made significant changes to 34 U.S.C. § 40727 (the Kirk Bloodsworth Post-Conviction DNA Testing Grant Program statute) and other related provisions of law. If the FY 2018 appropriation incorporates these changes, then no awards will be made from this FY 2018 Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence solicitation.

All awards are subject to the availability of appropriated funds and to any modifications or additional requirements that may be imposed by law.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to check for updates to this solicitation prior to submitting applications.

Program-Specific Information:

Since the advent of forensic DNA analysis, a growing number of Americans convicted of violent crimes have been exonerated through DNA analysis of evidence that was untested at the time of trial. New technologies have increased the likelihood of successful DNA analysis of aged, degraded, limited, or otherwise compromised biological evidence. As a result, crime scene samples once thought to be unsuitable for testing may now yield viable DNA profiles. Moreover, samples that had previously generated inconclusive DNA results may be amenable to reanalysis using newer methods.

NIJ provides funding to help defray the costs (e.g., of additional personnel, overtime, testing supplies, and services, etc.) associated with postconviction DNA testing for violent felony offenses (as defined by State law) in which actual innocence might be demonstrated. Funds may be used to review suitable postconviction cases and to locate and analyze biological evidence. Only a limited portion of funds may be used for case identification activities.

This program was previously titled the Postconviction DNA Testing Assistance Program. NIJ has made awards for postconviction DNA testing assistance in each fiscal year since 2008.

Prior to fiscal year 2015, NIJ invited applications from States only. In order for a State’s application to be considered eligible in those years, the State was required to submit with its application an express certification from the applicant State’s chief legal officer (typically the Attorney General) regarding the applicant State’s provision of postconviction DNA testing, and its laws and practices addressing the preservation of biological evidence. Since fiscal year 2015, NIJ has expanded eligibility under this program to include units of local government and public institutions of higher education. This is expected to better reflect the diversity of institutions that are engaged in postconviction DNA testing efforts. Certification from the State’s chief legal officer as to State procedures regarding evidence retention and access to postconviction DNA testing is no longer required at the time of application, but must be submitted before funds can be accessed.

To expand access to the program’s services in new geographic areas, NIJ allows proposals for postconviction projects serving multiple States. While such a multi-State project may be awarded funds, project activity in any particular State may not proceed (and the associated funds will be withheld) until proper certification from that State’s chief legal officer as to evidence retention and access to postconviction DNA testing is submitted.

Goals, Objectives, and Deliverables:

The goal of this program is to fund projects that assist States and units of local government with postconviction DNA testing in cases of violent felony offenses where actual innocence might be demonstrated. This supports the DOJ mission “...to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” While successful exonerations to correct injustice are notable program outcomes, the careful review, consideration, and closing of cases subjected to postconviction DNA testing that do not ultimately demonstrate innocence also work to advance the public’s interest that justice has been fairly applied.

Program objectives with respect to target number of cases to be reviewed and other concrete goals must be outlined in the proposal. Funded projects are expected to implement some aspect of each of the following activities, except for case identification, which is not mandatory:

1. Identify potential postconviction DNA testing cases. A maximum of 15 percent of the proposed budget may be dedicated to case identification activities.
2. Review appropriate postconviction cases to identify those in which DNA testing could prove the actual innocence of a person convicted of a violent felony offense as defined by State law.
3. Locate biological evidence associated with such postconviction cases.
4. Perform DNA analysis of appropriate biological evidence.

For the purposes of this announcement:

-Case identification means performing outreach or initial screening activities, other than “case review” as defined below, designed to identify postconviction cases of violent felony offenses (as defined by State law) where DNA analysis might demonstrate actual innocence. Permissible outreach and initial screening mechanisms are face-to-face meetings, closed-circuit television meetings, eligibility letters/questionnaires/applications, telephone calls, and computerized searches of State court records.

-Case review means review of files or documentation of postconviction cases of violent felony offenses (as defined by State law) by appropriate persons (e.g., prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement personnel, and medical examiners) to determine whether biological evidence exists that might, through DNA analysis, demonstrate the actual innocence of the person previously convicted.

-Evidence location means seeking to locate, following a case review, biological evidence that, through DNA analysis, might demonstrate actual innocence, through activities such as the searching of files, storage facilities, and evidence rooms.

-DNA analysis of biological evidence includes the handling, screening, and DNA analysis of biological evidence located in connection with a case review.

All DNA analyses conducted using program funds must be performed by a laboratory (government-owned or fee-for-service) that is accredited and that undergoes external audits at least once every two years that demonstrate compliance with the applicable DNA Quality Assurance Standards established by the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. All DNA analyses conducted and profiles generated under this program must be maintained pursuant to any applicable federal privacy requirements.

Information Regarding Potential Evaluation of Programs and Activities:

The Department of Justice has prioritized the use of evidence-based programming and deems it critical to continue to build and expand the evidence informing criminal and juvenile justice programs to reach the highest level of rigor possible. Therefore, applicants should note that the Office of Justice Programs may conduct or support an evaluation of the programs and activities funded under this solicitation. Recipients and sub-recipients will be expected to cooperate with program-related assessments or evaluation efforts, including through the collection and provision of information or data requested by OJP (or its designee) for the assessment or evaluation of any activities and/or outcomes of those activities funded under this solicitation. The information or data requested may be in addition to any other financial or performance data already required under this program.

Permissible Expenses:

1. Salary and benefits of additional employees — Funds may be used for salaries and benefits of additional full- or part-time employees to the extent that such employees are directly engaged in case identification, case review, location of evidence, or DNA analysis of biological evidence. Applicants should demonstrate that any additional full- or part-time employees will be directly engaged in these activities. Supplanting is not permitted.

2. Overtime — Funds may be used for employee overtime for the purpose of case identification, case review, location of evidence, or DNA analysis of biological evidence. Any payments for overtime must be in accordance with the applicable provisions of the DOJ Grants Financial Guide.

3. Travel (limited) — Funds may be used for reasonable travel expenses directly associated with case identification, case review, location of evidence, or DNA analysis of biological evidence. These costs must be in accordance with federal policy or an organizationally approved travel policy. The Office of the Chief Financial Officer reserves the authority to determine the reasonableness of the recipient's own established travel rates. Current federal travel policy and per diem rate information are available at www.gsa.gov/perdiem.

4. Computer equipment — Funds may be used to upgrade, replace, lease, or purchase computer hardware or software that will be used exclusively for case identification, case review, location of evidence, or DNA analysis of biological evidence.

5. Laboratory supplies — Funds may be used to acquire laboratory supplies for DNA analysis of biological evidence. The proposal must clearly demonstrate that the types and number of supplies requested are appropriate for the proposed caseload. Award recipients whose proposals involve the purchase or use of chemicals may encounter delays in the release of award funds pending satisfactory completion of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review process.

6. Engage additional (temporary) personnel — Funds may be used to obtain the services of individuals (other than employees of the recipient) to perform case identification and case reviews, locate evidence, or perform DNA analyses of biological evidence in the crime laboratory.

7. Procurement from private laboratories of DNA analyses — Funds may be used for contracts with accredited fee-for-service laboratories to conduct DNA analysis of biological evidence.

Please note: No profiles generated with funding from this program may be entered into any non-governmental DNA database without prior express written approval from NIJ.

8. Training (limited) — In limited circumstances, funds may be used for postconviction training directly related to case identification, case review, location of biological evidence, and DNA analysis of biological evidence. Funds for this purpose must be used only for grant-funded personnel directly engaged in case identification, case review, location of biological evidence, or DNA analysis of biological evidence. The proposal must clearly demonstrate that the proposed training directly supports the program’s purpose areas, and is related directly to the job position and duties of the individual(s) receiving the training.

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 141817

Number of Grants:

Expected Number of Grants: 6

Term of Contract:

NIJ expects to make awards with period of performance of up to 24 months, to begin on, or after, January 1, 2019.

Eligibility:

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Eligibility:

Eligible applicants are States, units of local government, and public institutions of higher education (including tribal institutions of higher education). For the purposes of this solicitation, the term “State” includes the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Foreign governments, foreign organizations, and foreign institutions of higher education are not eligible to apply.

All recipients and subrecipients (including any for-profit organization) must forgo any profit or management fee.

NIJ welcomes applications under which two or more entities would carry out the federal award; however, only one entity may be the applicant. Any others must be proposed as subrecipients (subgrantees). The applicant must be the entity that would have primary responsibility for carrying out the award, including administering the funding and managing the entire project. Under this solicitation, only one application by any particular applicant entity will be considered. An entity may, however, be proposed as a subrecipient (subgrantee) in more than one application.

Expenses that are not permitted:

Federal funds awarded under this solicitation may only be used for the permissible expenses outlined above. Among other things, funds may not be used for:

1. Work that will be funded under another specific solicitation.
2. Activities that do not respond to the specific goals of this solicitation.
3. Costs for postconviction relief litigation, after DNA testing of biological evidence has been completed.
4. Salaries and benefits for victims advocacy services.
5. Salaries, benefits, or overtime for staff who are not directly engaged in case identification, case review, location of biological evidence, or DNA analysis of biological evidence.
6. Outreach and initial screening activities not included in case identification (as defined above).
7. Laboratory equipment.
8. Construction.
9. Renovation.
10. Office furnishings.
11. Witness travel.
12. General, non-postconviction training, or training for employees not directly funded under this award.

Pre-Application Information:

Applicants must register with Grants.gov prior to submitting an application.

Applicants must acquire a unique entity identifier (currently, a DUNS number). A DUNS number is usually received within 1-2 business days.

Applicants must acquire or maintain registration with SAM. Each applicant must update or renew its SAM registration at least annually to maintain an active status. SAM registration and renewal can take as long as 10 business days to complete (2 more weeks to acquire an EIN).

An application cannot be successfully submitted in Grants.gov until Grants.gov receives the SAM registration information. Once the SAM registration/renewal is complete, the information transfer from SAM to Grants.gov can take as long as 48 hours. OJP recommends that the applicant register or renew registration with SAM as early as possible.

All applications are due by 11:59 PM eastern time on April 26, 2018.

OJP urges applicants to submit applications at least 72 hours prior to the application due date, to allow time for the applicant to receive validation messages or rejection notifications from Grants.gov, and to correct in a timely fashion any problems that may have caused a rejection notification.

View this opportunity on Grants.gov:
https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html?keywords=NIJ-2018-13833

Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Grants.gov Customer Support Hotline:
Phone: 800-518-4726, 606-545-5035
Web: https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/support.html
Email: support@grants.gov

National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Response Center:
Toll-free: 1-800-851-3420
TTY: 301-240-6310 (hearing impaired only)
Fax: 301-240-5830
Web Chat: https://webcontact.ncjrs.gov/ncjchat/chat.jsp
Email: grants@ncjrs.gov

CFDA Number:

16.820

Funding or Pin Number:

NIJ-2018-13833

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming

USA Territories: American Samoa (USA)   Guam (USA)   Puerto Rico (USA)   Virgin Islands (USA)   Northern Mariana Islands (USA)