Thursday, January 13, 2011

SHSU opens new crime lab

Sam Houston State University just opened a new, regional pay-per-service crime lab in the Woodlands, reports
The laboratory will ease the backlog of criminal cases in Texas by serving the basic needs of nearly 100 state and local agencies in 10 counties in Southeast Texas. The lab, staffed by 10 employees, is expected to handle up to 5,000 cases annually.

The regional crime lab will offer fee-based services to attorneys, medical examiner’s offices, law enforcement agencies, the public and other laboratories and organizations. Examiners at the lab will test for controlled substances in seized drugs and provide toxicology testing in biological specimens for alcohol and illicit, prescription, and over-the-counter drugs.

“The laboratory is part of the comprehensive criminal justice program at Sam Houston State University,” said Dr. Vincent Webb, Dean of the SHSU College of Criminal Justice and Director of the George J. Beto Criminal Justice Center. The Criminal Justice Center also houses professional and research institutes, including the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas, the Correctional Management Institute of Texas, the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility and the Crime Victims’ Institute.
Notably, the Senate Criminal Justice Committee recently recommended that the Department of Public Safety begin charging for crime lab services. Currently smaller jurisdictions get those services for free from DPS while larger communities pay for them out of local tax coffers. If DPS does make that shift, I'd expect this new crime lab to thrive.


Anonymous said...

The DPS labs are already recouping most of their testing costs in the form of restitution payments by probationers. I'm pretty sure McGraw discussed this during the interim hearings. If DPS starts charging a fee to the counties, this restitution will simply be diverted to the counties and municipalities. Most drug and DWI offenders aren't going to prison--but are instead being placed on probation.

Anonymous said...

The counties bear the bulk of the cost of operating the criminal justice system, at the local level, as an arm of the state government. I believe it is appropriate for the Department of Public Safety to continue to operate under the "public safety" concept by supporting local local law enforcement efforts through programs like crime labs, which the vast majority of counties in the State of Texas cannot afford. Since SHSU is also a state institution, if they choose to enter into the crime lab business, it should be done as a service to the criminal justice system. To create competition for lab services by charging fees will only pass that cost down to the local taxpayer, who already pay for that service. If the SHSU lab charges for their services in civil cases then fees are justified.