What is the Witness Protection Program?
In the United States, the Federal Witness Protection Program is an effort administered by the United States Department of Justice and tangibly carried-out by the United States Marshals Service. The witness protection program is implemented to protect threatened or highly-important witnesses before, during and after the trial in question. Although the program is federally run and organized, a few states, including New York, Texas and Illinois, utilize their own witness protection programs for crimes not covered by the Federal platform.
History of the Witness Protection Program:
The Witness Protection Program was formed under Title V of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, which established the manner in which the United States Attorney General may provide the protection and relocation of a witness of the federal or state government in a proceeding concerning organized crime.
The Federal Government also provides grants to individual states to enable them to provide similar efforts to their citizens. The federal program, named the Federal Witness Protection Program, was founded in the late 1960s to protect individuals who served as key witnesses to bolster the prosecution of leaders or influential members of organized crime families. As such, the Witness Protection Program, provided a way to ensure that said witnesses would be protected; if an individual served as a key witness regarding the conviction of an influential member of an organized crime, the individual would be relocated and kept under government surveillance to ensure his or her safety. The majority of witnesses under this program are protected by the United States Marshals Service.
How is a Witness Protected?
The first step undertaken by the government in the Witness Protection Program is to issue new identities to witnesses (and their families). These identities will be attached with authentic documentation. Following the creation of a new identity, the witness will be given a new home, medical care and basic living expenses. Job training and employment may also be provided by the government.
In addition to these services, the U.S. Marshals will provide 24-hour protection to witnesses while they are viewed as targets for the party or individual they are prosecuting. This 24-hour protection is only provided while the witness is regarded as being active in a high-threat environment; meaning the individual is involved in pre-trial conferences, testimonials and other court appearances.
While protecting witnesses under the protection, the United States Marshals will cooperate fully with all local law enforcement and court authorities to ensure that the witness fulfills their full legal responsibility.