DNA, Privacy and Social Justice: The Policy-Making Process in the State of Maryland


Professor Emeritus Howard A. Palley, Associate Professor Charlotte Lyn Bright and Doctoral Student Jenny Afkinich recently published the following piece, "DNA, Privacy and Social Justice: The Policy-Making Process in the State of Maryland," in the Journal of Social Welfare and Human Rights, 5 (1, 2017): 1-14.

When and how law enforcement is able to gather, store, and analyze DNA is a current social justice issue. This article considers the question of DNA analysis in terms of social justice and privacy concerns. Of particular interest are the issues of federalism and the role of the states in legislating the use of DNA; mitochondrial or familial DNA matching; expectations of privacy as documented in Supreme Court decisions and opinions; and the potential to collect and use DNA from individuals not convicted of a crime. We describe the unique situation of Maryland as the only state to legislate a ban on familial DNA but also as the impetus for a 5-4 Supreme Court decision affirming broad rights of states to collect and use DNA evidence. We consider the multiple stakeholders, including advocacy groups and policymakers, who contributed to the familial DNA ban, in the context of social justice questions and disproportionate minority contact with the criminal justice system.

Professor Palley also recently participated in the successful defense of dissertation, Understanding the Disabled Self in Later Life: Perceived Effects of Policy in Self-Conceptualization by Jennifer Howard-Doering for the PhD in Gerontology.

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