In yet another set of ripples from the scandal at the Jamaica Plain crime lab scandal in Massachusetts, which may affect thousands of cases, the Boston Globe reports that Mayor Thomas Menino has requested $15 million from the state to cover the costs associated with the sudden release of hundreds of inmates into Boston communities.
According to Mayor Menino, the releases could have dire impacts on public safety in the city. This may come from pressure “on the crime rate, rental housing, demand for emergency shelter, and the cost of job training and mental health counseling, among other issues.” Officials said they would need more police on the street, and said they would create “crisis reentry teams” of police, probation officers, and outreach workers to address the problems.
The City’s request for aid from the state comes after reports that state prosecutors would also be making a multi-million dollar request for resources to meet the crisis. These will be among “a slew of multimillion-dollar pleas for state assistance from the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the Trial Courts, and law enforcement agencies like State Police and the Department of Correction.”
The scandal is a failure of the analyst (or analysts) involved, and the supervisors of the analyst(s) and the lab. But we see here that the impact is even more far reaching. Guilty people will get out of jail. Some innocent people may be in jail, where they don’t belong. The integrity of the criminal justice system — not just this lab or just forensic methods — has been damaged. And now, city residents and Massachusetts taxpayers will be hurt: by higher crime, by stress on housing and mental health services, and also by a big bill that the public must pay.
Such a shame that we don’t take require basic kinds of quality control, proficiency testing, certification, and integrity auditing in place in forensic labs. Some labs, of course, do these things, but they generally aren’t required, and most labs don’t.
The result: failed evidence.