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U.S. Marshals Service

Prisoner Operations

  • The U.S. Marshals Service is responsible for the safe and secure confinement, care and transportation of federal prisoners from the time of court-ordered custody until either their acquittal or their conviction and delivery to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to serve their sentence.
  • Once ordered into custody by a U.S. District Court, the U.S. Marshals Service assumes responsibility for all prisoners charged with a federal offense, regardless of which state, local or federal law enforcement agency made the arrest.

2013 Data

Average number of prisoners in Marshals custody each day, housed in federal, state, local and private jails throughout the nation 59,800
Prisoners received by U.S. Marshals in Fiscal 2012 232,709
Contracts with state and local governments to rent jail space approx. 1,800
Prisoners housed in state, local and private facilities approx. 80%
Prisoners housed in Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities approx. 20%

Prisoner Custody

  • All individuals arrested on a federal offense are brought before a U.S. magistrate or U.S. district court judge for an initial court appearance. The court determines if they are to be released on bond or remanded into the custody of the Marshals to await trial. If convicted at the conclusion of the case, the U.S. Marshals Service delivers prisoners to the designated Federal Bureau of Prisons institution to serve their sentence.
  • The task of holding federal prisoners presents challenges which are diverse and complex, such as:
  • Taking DNA samples of individuals arrested by the Marshals for an FBI database
  • Managing prisoners with terminal illnesses and contagious diseases
  • Coordinating with federal, state and local authorities about writs and court orders and transferring prisoners between the various levels of the criminal justice system (local, state and federal)

Prisoner Medical Care

  • The U.S. Marshals Service is responsible for the health care costs of federal prisoners in its custody.
  • Increased cases of disease and medical problems, such as cancer, AIDS, hepatitis and multiple-organ failure, within the prisoner population has made the Marshals role in prisoner medical care more complex.
  • Congress passed an amendment to 18 U.S. Code 4006 in 2000, which authorizes the agency to pay for expenditures for medical claims at no more than Medicare payment standards. As a result, prisoner medical care costs have been reduced by more than $638 million over 12 years.
  • The Marshals recently began a national managed-care contract, which reduces workload and saves costs through centralizing administrative procedures to a contractor for procuring, processing and paying medical and pharmacy services provided to federal prisoners in U.S. Marshals custody.
  • U.S. Public Health Service officers assigned to the Marshals provide clinical advice and expertise.


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revised Nov. 8, 2012 is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice