Overview of the U.S. Marshals
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
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
The agency’s headquarters is just across the Potomac River from
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
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
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
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
Marshals-led district task forces arrested 81,900 state and local
fugitives in FY 2010, clearing approximately 108,200 state and local
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.
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
Proceeds generated from asset sales are used to compensate victims,
supplement funding for law enforcement initiatives and support
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.
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
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
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).
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
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.
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