Description

The Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center (HHRRC) seeks to utilize the assets of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) to promote the application of contemporary forensic science and forensic medicine principles to global humanitarian and/or human rights projects requiring special assistance. The Center is funded in part through the National Institute of Justice’s FTCoE.

HHRRC projects are those selected for support by the International Advisory Council of the HHRRC and can include research applied to humanitarian and human rights projects, training materials and equipment, and advising or subject matter expertise. The HHRRC also aims to provide support and encouragement to AAFS members to increase their engagement in applying contemporary forensic science to global humanitarian matters.

In addition to direct support for forensic studies, the HHRRC provides access to publications and educational materials to disseminate knowledge on the issues and application of contemporary forensic science and forensic medical principles. The HHRRC assists projects by making laboratory and analysis equipment available. To strengthen the available pool of advisors, the HHRRC established a database of volunteers willing to assist and make a difference in global humanitarian issues and possible violations of human rights.

In the following video message, HHRRC Chair Dr. Dawnie Steadman and the FTCoE express our gratitude for everything Dr. Douglas Ubelaker did to establish and build the Center in his tenure as Chair from 2015 until 2020. Additionally, Dr. Steadman highlights the importance of the HHRRC and the many Center activities that support humanitarian and human rights efforts across the globe.

Below are archived resources highlighting HHRRC funded projects.


2020 AAFS Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center Poster & Networking Session

The inaugural Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center Poster and Networking Session was hosted on February 18th at the 2020 AAFS Annual Scientific Meeting in Anaheim, CA. This Poster Session was an open meeting where over 200 attendees met HHRRC researchers and mentors in the field to learn about the application of forensic science to investigate humanitarian and human rights injustices.

Click here to view the virtual poster session showcasing materials and posters from that event.

Listen to Our Podcast

 Just So You Know: AAFS Humanitarian and Human Rights Resource Center

 Just So You Know: The HHRRC’s Impact

Watch our Archived Webinars

2018 Series

Building Forensic Capacity Post-Conflict: Lessons from Uganda

Stable Isotope Analysis in a Humanitarian Context 

Isotopes Aiding Identification of Undocumented Border Crosser Human Remains

2017 Series

A Review of Forensic Anthropology in Mexico

Stable Isotope Forensics & Unknown Persons

Analysis & Conservation of Remains in Cambodia

Nerve Agent Uptake and Detection in Human Bone

2017 Series Summary Report

The FTCoE in collaboration with HHRRC hosted a four-part webinar series HHRRC projects addressing forensic applications and recent advanced of global humanitarian and human rights projects requiring HHRRC assistance. This in-brief report highlights the content of the webinar series and the reception of the series by the forensic science community.

Click Here to Read the Full Report 

NIJ’s FTCoE, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department, and Boca Raton Police Services Department

 

Report Date

November 2019

Introduction

Implementing DNA technology in crime laboratories has led to the intensification of backlogged cases and a concomitant pressure to implement backlog reduction strategies. This report distills the challenges and long-term results of a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) 2009 National Institute of Justice grant-funded DNA
backlog strategy to construct a centralized biological processing laboratory (BPL) at the Boca Raton Police Services Department (BRPSD) and is still used today with some enhancements. The BPL strategy had three goals:

1) Provide expedient serological screening results to the three largest, southern-most Palm Beach County law enforcement agencies (LEAs), including the Boynton Beach Police Department (BBPD), Delray Beach Police Department (DBPD), and BRPSD.
2) Prioritize prescreened crime scene evidence for DNA analysis by providing the evidence to the PBSO Forensic Biology Unit (FBU).
3) Demonstrate a sustainable approach to reduce DNA backlogs by creating a model for other jurisdictions.

Click here to read the full Report

Report Series Update

January 2019

Report Series Summary

Over the past decade, several tools have been developed to increase organizational efficiency and reduce backlogs, including process mapping and Lean Six Sigma (LSS). In 2011, a variation of LSS, named Lean Design was introduced as a novel approach to health facility design (Mersereau & Jimmerson, 2011). While the Lean Design approach has been successfully implemented in a number of health care research and development and quality management laboratories, it has not yet been applied to the planning and construction of forensic facilities.


Conducting a Forensic Facility Needs Assessment Using Lean Facility Design: A Case Example

January 2019

Report Summary
This report details the steps for using a lean facility design (LFD) approach to conduct a needs assessment in a forensic facility. LFD is a strategy that is used to optimize the flow of information, work, and people through a facility. In addition to detailing the steps for conducting an LFD assessment, this report also provides a short case example. The National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) collaborated with the Midwest Forensics Resource Center (MFRC) to conduct an LFD needs assessment at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO), in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Click here to read the full report


Development of a Lean Facility Design Roadmap for Design-Bid-Build Forensic Facilities

January 2016

Report Summary
In an effort to incorporate Lean Design thinking into the planning, construction, and relocation of forensic facilities, the National Institute of Justice’s FTCoE initiated a project to develop guidelines and checklists for Lean Facility Design (LFD). This document reports on the development of these LFD guidelines and checklists and their integration with the guidance in the White Book to develop an LFD roadmap for planning and constructing 21st century Design-Bid-Build forensic facilities.

Click here to read the full report


Other Resources

Forensic Science Laboratories: Handbook for Facility Planning, Design, Construction and Relocation (2013)

In 2013, NIST published an update to its widely acclaimed Forensic Science Laboratories: Handbook for Facility Planning, Design, Construction and Relocation. The “White Book,” as it is often called, was developed by a group of 16 professionals with expertise in laboratory management, planning, architecture, and engineering. It offers advice for law enforcement agencies on 21st century planning, design, construction of, and relocation to, publicly funded forensic facilities. Click here to read the full report.

Report Series Date

January 2019

Introduction

The National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is committed in their efforts to support scientific advancement, evidence-based practices, and community awareness of our Nation’s sexual assault response. As NIJ’s Director, Dr. David B. Muhlhausen, indicated, “our nation’s forensic laboratories have the ability to find and test smaller and smaller amounts of crucial evidence and get quality results for cases that years ago would have been unattainable” [1]. NIJ’s numerous sexual assault response resources, including the National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits: A Multidisciplinary Approach, are summarized in this NIJ Director’s Message [1, 2].

Purpose

Sexual assault remains prevalent in the United States, with an average of 300,000 cases reported to law enforcement each year [3]. However, another 600,000 go unreported [4]. The circumstances of and trauma resulting from a sexual assault can pose a challenge to investigators. For example, witnesses are not always present; the impact of trauma or incapacitating substances, such as alcohol, may affect the victim’s ability to recount details of the incident; and frequently, corroborating evidence is limited.

DNA evidence, while valuable, is not always probative or present in every case: many DNA samples do not meet the quality standards required to be uploaded into CODIS (38% of profiles were found to be ineligible as noted from recent NIJ-supported research [5]). Even in cases where a DNA profile is present and is CODIS-eligible, a CODIS hit occurs only about half of the time [5]. Additionally, a DNA profile may provide limited probative value in situations where sexual contact is not disputed. Thus, many types of additional physical evidence play a critical role in the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases.

Physical evidence collection, submission, and analysis can be an effective and necessary means of reconstructing at least some of the events that occurred during a sexual assault. Physical evidence provides value to investigations even if a DNA profile is developed and probative, as it can be used to corroborate and supplement a greater understanding of the circumstance and make a stronger case. This three-part Beyond DNA In-Brief series highlights types of physical evidence that can provide crucial information about a sexual assault, so that key stakeholders in the criminal justice community ultimately obtain just resolutions for these crimes.


Click here to read Beyond DNA: The Role of Physical Evidence in Sexual Assault Investigations

“Based on our findings, jurors were more likely to find a defendant guilty than not guilty even without scientific evidence if the victim or other witnesses testified, except in the case of rape.” —Honorable Donald E. Shelton,The ‘CSI Effect’: Does It Really Exist?, National Institute of Justice (NIJ)


Click here to read Beyond DNA: The Role of Biological Evidence in Sexual Assault Investigations

“Sexual assault evidence should be evaluated holistically. The identification of the type of biological fluid may further substantiate and clarify how events took place.” -Dr. Patricia Melton, RTI International


Click here to read Beyond DNA: The Impact of Toxicological Evidence in Sexual Assault Investigations

“Because of the effects that CNS depressants can have on memory and the subsequent reporting of suspected DFSA by potential victims, the true prevalence of this crime may never be fully realized.” – Marc LeBeau, FBI Laboratory


Resources

The NIJ and the FTCoE provide resources for sexual assault response, including:

• The National Institute of Justice’s National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Practices: A Multidisciplinary Approach  provides 35 recommendations to improve evidence collection and tracking procedures, investigative considerations, communication strategies, and more.

• The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) published a comprehensive report  on current knowledge and best practices for sexual assault response teams, including considerations for evidence collection.

• The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative  (SAKI) provides resources on these issues, including insight for cold cases where DNA may not be dispositive.

• The NIJ introduces the value of physical evidence in Sexual Assault Cases: Exploring the Importance of Non-DNA Forensic Evidence. The NIJ has also published a variety of resources around sexual assault response 

• The FTCoE has collaborated with the Center for Nursing Excellence (CFNEI) to develop an online sexual violence glossary  to standardize language amongst medical, law enforcement, and legal professionals.

Additional Resources

1. Muhlhausen D.B. (2018, April). Director’s Corner: Responding to Sexual Assaults. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from
https://www.nij.gov/about/director/Pages/muhlhausen-responding-to-sexual-assault.aspx .
2. National Institute of Justice. (2017, August 8, 2017). National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits: A Multidisciplinary Approach. NCJ 250384. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/250384.pdf .
3. Morgan, R. E., & Kena, G. (2017, December). Criminal victimization, 2016. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cv16.pdf  
4. Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. (2018). The criminal justice system: Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.rainn.org/statistics/criminal-justice-system 
5. Waltke, H., LaPorte, G., Weiss, D., Schwarting, D., Nguyen, M., & Scott, F. (2017). Sexual Assault Cases: Exploring the Importance of Non-DNA Forensic Evidence. National Institute of Justice Journal, 279.

Technical Note Date

November 2018

Description

A 2009 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Forensic DNA Unit Efficiency Improvement (EIP) Program solicitation provided crime laboratories’ DNA testing services with a funding opportunity to meet the increasingly numerous requests from the criminal justice community. The purpose of the 2009 EIP was to encourage crime laboratories to implement novel ideas and processes that would provide a measurable, significant, and sustainable way to meet the needs of national DNA programs. This article focuses on the final outcomes of an award received by the Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office (PBSO). The NIJ support of an approved and implemented plan involving interagency cooperation between three jurisdictional law enforcement agencies (LEAs) within Palm Beach County has resulted in the successful and efficient establishment of a centralized biological pre-screening laboratory (BPL) for DNA evidence prior to submission to the county’s forensic laboratory for DNA testing.

Click here to read the full technical note

This report was published in RTI Press, a global publisher of peer-reviewed, open-access publications on a broad range of topics. The areas of focus reflect RTI’s multidisciplinary research, our expertise in social and laboratory sciences, and our extensive international activities. Since 2008, the RTI Press has produced more than 100 publications.

Report Date

September 2017

Abstract

On May 10–11, 2016, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI; Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice of the Netherlands), the International Society for Forensic Radiology and Imaging (ISFRI), the International Association of Forensic Radiographers (IAFR), and NIJ’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCoE) at RTI International organized and convened the International Forensic Radiology Research Summit (IFRRS) at the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam. The summit assembled 40 international subject matter experts in forensic radiology, to include researchers, practitioners, government employees, and professional staff from 14 countries. The goal of this 2-day summit was to identify gaps, challenges, and research needs to produce a road map to success regarding the state of forensic radiology, including formulating a plan to address the obstacles to implementation of advanced imaging technologies in medicolegal investigations. These proceedings summarize the meeting’s important exchange of technical and operational information, ideas, and solutions for the community and other stakeholders of forensic radiology.

Click here to read the full report

About the Editors

Nicole S. Jones, MS, is the associate director of strategic planning and operations in the Center for Forensic Sciences (CFS) at RTI International.

Jeri Ropero-Miller, PhD, is a principal investigator (PI) and Senior Research Forensic Scientist in the Center for Forensic Sciences (CFS) at RTI International.

Report Date

September 2018

Report Summary

On February 5–6, 2018, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research and evaluation agency of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), convened a diverse group of stakeholders from across the United States to gather information on strengthening medicolegal death investigations (MDI) nationally. This meeting sought to (1) begin a formal dialogue and engage with the MDI community to better understand how NIJ can assist with high-priority needs, (2) identify solutions to help with challenges encountered by MDI stakeholders, and (3) inform NIJ’s programs and initiatives based on the needs of the MDI community. This report provides an overview of the meeting, its objectives, and topics discussed, including NIJ’s programs to address the community’s needs, NIJ’s program to fund R&D in forensic science, and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

Click here to read the full report

Report Date

January 2018

Report Summary

The goal of this report is to provide the reader with a basic understanding of alternate light sources (ALS), as well as their use, benefits, and limitations. The information contained herein is derived from current literature and interviews with both users and technology developers, providing a thorough assessment of the considerations that will impact procurement, training, and use of ALS. This report also contains product tables highlighting the variety of ALS devices available for purchase.

Click here to read the full report

This report was published in RTI Press, a global publisher of peer-reviewed, open-access publications on a broad range of topics. The areas of focus reflect RTI’s multidisciplinary research, our expertise in social and laboratory sciences, and our extensive international activities. Since 2008, the RTI Press has produced more than 100 publications.

Report Date

June 2017

Abstract

The 2017 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) Forensic Science Research and Development (R&D) Symposium is intended to promote collaboration and enhance knowledge transfer of NIJ-funded research. The NIJ Forensic Science R&D Program funds both basic or applied R&D projects that will (1) increase the body of knowledge to guide and inform forensic science policy and practice or (2) result in the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods that have the potential for forensic application. The intent of this program is to direct the findings of basic scientific research; research and development in broader scientific fields applicable to forensic science; and ongoing forensic science research toward the development of highly discriminating, accurate, reliable, cost-effective, and rapid methods for the identification, analysis, and interpretation of physical evidence for criminal justice purposes.

Read Full Report

About the Authors

Nicole Suzanne McCleary, MS, is the associate director of strategic planning and operations in the Center for Forensic Sciences (CFS) at RTI International.

Gerald LaPorte, MSFS, is a supervisory physical scientist and director of the Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences at the National Institute of Justice.

 

This report was published in RTI Press, a global publisher of peer-reviewed, open-access publications on a broad range of topics. The areas of focus reflect RTI’s multidisciplinary research, our expertise in social and laboratory sciences, and our extensive international activities. Since 2008, the RTI Press has produced more than 100 publications. 

Report Date

July 2016


Report Summary

The 2016 NIJ Research and Development Symposium is intended to promote collaboration and enhance knowledge transfer of NIJ-funded research. The NIJ Research and Development (R&D) Program funds both basic or applied R&D projects that will (1) increase the body of knowledge to guide and inform forensic science policy and practice, or (2) result in the production of useful materials, devices, systems, or methods that have the potential for forensic application. The intent of this program is to direct the findings of basic scientific research; research and development in broader scientific fields applicable to forensic science; and ongoing forensic science research toward the development of highly discriminating, accurate, reliable, cost-effective, and rapid methods for the identification, analysis, and interpretation of physical evidence for criminal justice purposes. NIJ and the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence are committed to improving the practice of forensic science and strengthening its impact through support of R&D, rigorous technology evaluation and adoption, effective knowledge transfer and education, and comprehensive dissemination of best practices and guidelines to agencies dedicated to combating crime.

Click here to read the full report


About the Authors

 

Nicole Suzanne McCleary, MS, is the associate director of strategic planning and operations in the Center for Forensic Sciences (CFS) at RTI International.

Gerald LaPorte, MSFS, is a supervisory physical scientist and director of the Office of Investigative and Forensic Sciences at the National Institute of Justice.