Skip to Content

U.S. Marshals Service

Overview of the U.S. Marshals Service


  • The U.S. Marshals Service is the nation’s oldest and most versatile federal law enforcement agency.
  • Federal marshals have served the country since 1789, often in unseen but critical ways.
  • The Marshals Service occupies a uniquely central position in the federal justice system. It is the enforcement arm of the federal courts, involved in virtually every federal law enforcement initiative.
  • Presidentially appointed, U.S. marshals direct the activities of 94 districts — one for each federal judicial district.
  • More than 3,950 deputy U.S. marshals and criminal investigators form the backbone of the agency. Among their many duties, they protect the federal judiciary, apprehend federal fugitives, seize property acquired by criminals through illegal activities, house and transport federal prisoners and operate the Witness Security Program.
  • The agency’s headquarters is just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.

Judicial Security

  • Since 1789, the U.S. Marshals Service has been the enforcement arm of the federal courts and has been responsible for protecting the federal judicial process.
  • The agency ensures the safe and secure conduct of judicial proceedings at more than 400 locations in 94 federal court districts and provides protection for federal judges, U.S. attorneys, assistant U.S. attorneys, personnel, jurors, the visiting public and prisoners.
  • Experienced former law enforcement officers work within the agency’s Court Security Officer program. These contracted CSOs receive limited deputations as special deputy U.S. marshals. CSOs detect and intercept weapons and other prohibited items from entering federal courthouses.

Fugitive Operations

  • The U.S. Marshals Service is the federal government’s primary agency for fugitive investigations.
  • The agency holds all federal arrest warrants until execution or dismissal.
  • In fiscal year 2010, the Marshals apprehended more than 36,100 federal fugitives, clearing approximately 39,100 felony warrants.
  • U.S. Marshals task forces combine the efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to locate and arrest the most dangerous fugitives.
  • Marshals-led district task forces arrested 81,900 state and local fugitives in FY 2010, clearing approximately 108,200 state and local felony warrants.
  • The U.S. Marshals Service works with the international law enforcement community to apprehend fugitives abroad as well as to seek foreign fugitives living or residing in the United States. In FY 2010, the Marshals coordinated 805 extraditions and deportations from 67 countries.
  • The Marshals provide assistance, expertise and training on fugitive matters to federal, state, local and international agencies.
  • The agency has four foreign field offices in Jamaica, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Colombia. The U.S. Marshals work closely with law enforcement agencies along the borders of Mexico and Canada and with the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service. The agency also holds key positions at Interpol.

Asset Forfeiture

  • The Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Program has become a key part of the federal government’s efforts to combat major criminal activity by stripping criminals of their ill-gotten gains.
  • The U.S. Marshals Service plays a critical role by managing and selling assets seized and forfeited by federal law enforcement agencies nationwide.
  • Proceeds generated from asset sales are used to compensate victims, supplement funding for law enforcement initiatives and support community programs.
  • The Marshals currently manage nearly 18,000 assets valued at approximately $3.9 billion.
  • In FY 2010, approximately $580 million was shared with participating state and local law enforcement agencies. More than $6.1 billion has been shared since FY 1985.
  • In FY 2010, approximately $345 million was distributed to victims of crime and claimants.

Prisoner Operations

  • The U.S. Marshals Service houses and transports all federal prisoners from the time they enter federal custody until they are either acquitted or convicted and delivered to their designated federal Bureau of Prisons facility.
  • The Marshals Service has more than 63,000 detainees in custody each day, housed in federal, state, local and private jails throughout the nation.
  • In FY 2010, the Marshals received 225,329 prisoners.
  • The Marshals Service contracts with approximately 1,800 state and local governments to rent jail space. On average, more than 80 percent of the prisoners are detained in state, local and private facilities — the remaining are housed in various Bureau of Prisons facilities.

Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System

  • The U.S. Marshals Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System, sometimes called “Con Air,” moves prisoners between judicial districts, correctional institutions and foreign countries.
  • JPATS is one of the largest transporters of prisoners in the world — handling about 977 requests every day.
  • JPATS completed 356,603 prisoner and alien movements in FY 2010 (206,358 movements by air; 150,245 by ground transportation).

Witness Security

  • The U.S. Marshals Service operates the federal Witness Security Program, sometimes referred to as the “Witness Protection Program.”
  • The Witness Security Program provides for the security, safety and health of government witnesses and their authorized family members, whose lives are in danger as a result of their cooperation with the U.S. government.
  • More than 8,300 witnesses and 9,800 of their authorized family members have participated in the program since it began in 1971.
  • Witness Security personnel are the leading authorities and foremost experts on witness security matters, providing guidance and training to many government officials throughout the world.

Tactical Operations

  • The U.S. Marshals Service performs tactical operations for sensitive and classified missions involving homeland security, national emergencies, domestic crises and the intelligence community.
  • The Special Operations Group is a specially trained tactical unit deployed in high-risk/sensitive law enforcement situations, national emergencies, civil disorders and natural disasters. SOG members can perform specialties involving high-risk entry, explosive breaching, sniper/observer, rural operations, evasive driving, less lethal munitions, waterborne operations and tactical medical support.

Office of Public Affairs
Revised April 14, 2011 is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice