Funding Questioned for DNA Program


A proposal to collect DNA upon arrest in Wisconsin is drawing fire from privacy advocates. There are also questions about how the effort will be funded.

Legislation mandating the collection of DNA from all adults arrested for misdemeanors and felonies is expected to be introduced next year. The Department of Justice is already outlining how to fund the program. In its budget proposal, the DOJ would seek more than $7 million over two years from the state’s Penalty Surcharge Fund, which is paid for through fees tacked onto convictions.

Brian O’Keefe is the Administrator for the DOJ’s Division of Law Enforcement Services. He says his agency will sure up the fund by charging an extra $250 for felony convictions and $125 for misdemeanors. “With those collection rates and that surcharge being mandatory we believe that we’ll be able to support the program with those funds.”

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Recent reports by the Legislative Fiscal and Audit Bureaus show that the Penalty Surcharge Fund is running a deficit of more than $5 million. On top of that, they show the total amount of unpaid penalty surcharges has grown every year since 2006.

Chris Ahmuty is the Director of the American Civil Liberties Association of Wisconsin. He says the numbers do not add up. “In the first year money is going to be taken from the penalty surcharge fund in the amount of $2.2 million dollars and it’s unclear where that’s going to come from or if it really even exists.”

Currently, other agencies like the Department of Public Instruction draw from the state’s penalty surcharge fund. To keep the DNA collection program solvent, the DOJ recommends cutting the others out of the loop.