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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2012, Article ID 592364, 5 pages
Research Article

Criminal Genomic Pragmatism: Prisoners' Representations of DNA Technology and Biosecurity

1Department of Sociology, Research Center for the Social Sciences (CICS), Institute for Social Sciences, University of Minho, 4710-057 Braga, Portugal
2Department of Clinical Epidemiology, Predictive Medicine and Public Health, Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto (ISPUP), University of Porto Medical School, 4050-600 Porto, Portugal

Received 1 March 2012; Accepted 12 April 2012

Academic Editor: Carlos Ramos

Copyright © 2012 Helena Machado and Susana Silva. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background. Within the context of the use of DNA technology in crime investigation, biosecurity is perceived by different stakeholders according to their particular rationalities and interests. Very little is known about prisoners’ perceptions and assessments of the uses of DNA technology in solving crime. Aim. To propose a conceptual model that serves to analyse and interpret prisoners’ representations of DNA technology and biosecurity. Methods. A qualitative study using an interpretative approach based on 31 semi-structured tape-recorded interviews was carried out between May and September 2009, involving male inmates in three prisons located in the north of Portugal. The content analysis focused on the following topics: the meanings attributed to DNA and assessments of the risks and benefits of the uses of DNA technology and databasing in forensic applications. Results. DNA was described as a record of identity, an exceptional material, and a powerful biometric identifier. The interviewees believed that DNA can be planted to incriminate suspects. Convicted offenders argued for the need to extend the criteria for the inclusion of DNA profiles in forensic databases and to restrict the removal of profiles. Conclusions. The conceptual model entitled criminal genomic pragmatism allows for an understanding of the views of prison inmates regarding DNA technology and biosecurity.