Northumbria University Centre for Forensic Science

Efficiency and the Cost-Effective Delivery of Forensic Science Services: Insourcing, Outsourcing, and Privatization

C.N. Maguire, M.M. Houck, R.Williams & P.J. Speaker. Forensic Science Policy & Management, 3(2), pp. 62-69. (2012).


Budgets for forensic science laboratories have always been meager relative to the caseload demands on their services, but the pressure to do more with less has been growing at a more rapid pace recently for laboratories around the world. Much of this pressure is related to the stress on government budgets from global recession. During any fiscal crisis, governments look to areas in which public budgets can cut costs to move toward greater fiscal responsibility; in the most recent global recession those cuts, some draconian, have affected forensic science laboratories with some notable reductions in force. Rather than passively await the decisions of officials from outside the laboratory environment, laboratories may have a greater hand in their destiny through preemptive action before unwanted changes are thrust upon them. To do so it is essential that laboratory directors have a firm grasp on foundational economic realities. With that knowledge, directors can begin to use those realities to increase cost-effectiveness while maintaining efficiency. In many situations the optimal response may be to make cross-jurisdictional agreements to insource or outsource casework. In other situations the response may lead to reorganizing existing or opening new facilities to spread a heavy caseload among multiple laboratories for a more effective division of services. In some circumstances a private sector solution may be optimal as excess caseloads are outsourced to private laboratories or entire investigative areas diverted to the for-profit market.

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