Alaska to Expand DNA Collection

Affiliate: ACLU of Alaska
March 7, 2001 12:00 am

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ANCHORAGE, AK–In the hopes of curtailing violent crime, Alaskan lawmakers have proposed expanding the state DNA registry to include samples from convicted burglars, the Associated Press reported.

Proponents of Senate Bill 99 believe that including burglars in the DNA registry would increase the probability of finding and convicting violent criminals. They cite studies showing that often persons who commit violent crimes have been previously convicted of burglary.

According to the Associated Press, the Alaska DNA registry currently includes samples only from those convicted of felony crimes against another person. Last year Governor Tony Knowles and the Department of Public Safety tried unsuccessfully to amend the 1995 legislation to include burglary. This year Senate President Rick Halford, R-Chugiak, is sponsoring the legislation.

The Alaska Civil Liberties Union believes the legislation will result in an infringement on privacy. “We’ve seen this in other areas, most notably Social Security numbers,” says Jennifer Rudinger, the executive director of the AKCLU. “Once the government has this information about you they keep finding neat new ways to use it.”

Del Smith, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety, countered that the bill’s language specifically forbids other uses for the DNA register.

But Rudinger points to Social Security numbers, which were originally intended only for the national retirement program, not for identification purposes as they are used today. She worries that DNA information could be used to deny a person employment, a promotion, or would allow insurers to reject applicants based on their genetic makeup.

In addition, DNA samples reveal information about the criminal’s close relatives, exposing them to potential job discrimination.

Rudinger contends that the correlation between a history of burglaries and the likelihood of committing violent crimes is weak, and doesn’t warrant collecting of DNA samples. Even Smith admitted that the link wasn’t as pronounced as in other states. According to Smith, data collected from Florida indicates that 52 percent of violent felons have committed burglaries in the past, while in Alaska only 15 percent have.

The bill is now moving through the state Senate and Lisa Murkowski, R-Anchorage, is proposing a similar one in the House.

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