FRANKFORT, Ky. (WHAS11) – Somehow, more than 6,000 convicted felons in the state of Kentucky who were supposed to have their DNA taken, slipped through the cracks. Now efforts are being made to fix the problem, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
On Thursday, Kentucky Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown announced that an internal review turned up this problem: DNA samples were not taken from 6,341 convicted felons, even though the law requires it.
Kentucky law says that anyone convicted of a felony in the state as of March 27, 2009 must give a DNA sample. It will then go into state and national databases.
“We have processed about 82,000 inmates during that period of time,” Brown said. “We've collected close to 76,000 DNA samples, but that leaves a little more than 6,000 DNA samples that were not collected.”
Of those samples that were not taken, 3,915 convicted felons are now out of the system. They’re not in jail or prison, and they’re no longer under supervision by the Division of Probation and Parole.
Brown says collecting DNA samples from anyone who is still incarcerated or still seeing their probation and parole officer regularly is easy. As for the rest, they’re being sent letters that tell them to report to their local probation and parole office within the next 30 days, or risk being charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
“All they have to do is come into their probation or parole office in their locality, walk in, we get a cheek swab. We don't interview them, we don't take an updated status report, we don't take any financial information from them. We get the DNA and we let them walk back out the door,” Brown said.
So how could this have happened? The Justice and Public Safety Cabinet aren’t entirely sure. That’s why Governor Steve Beshear has put the Office of the Inspector General in the Transportation Cabinet in charge of an internal investigation.
Brown said the problem isn’t specific to one district or to one Probation and Parole officer.
“We know they occurred pretty much, to a certain degree, across the board, in almost every district.”
He says that may indicate there is a problem with the procedures that were put into place after the law went into effect in 2009.
“We have cases where officers took hundreds if not thousands of samples, but didn't take some samples, and there's no particular answer for that,” Brown said.
While the investigation into how this happened continues, new checks and balances have been put into place. Before any convicted felon is released from custody or supervision, a supervisor must sign off that their DNA has been taken.
Most of the convicted felons who did not give a DNA sample were Class D felons, convicted of theft, drug possession and property crimes. However, just over 3 percent were convicted of assault and violent crimes.