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Prisoner Operations Fact Sheet


The U.S. Marshals Service prisoner detention mission is a complex and multilayered function. The Marshals are responsible for preserving the integrity of the federal judicial process by overseeing all detention management matters for individuals remanded to U.S. Marshals custody.

The Marshals provide safe, secure and humane custody, housing, medical care and transportation for federal prisoners throughout the United States and its territories.

Fiscal 2019 Data
Total expenditures for federal prisoners in U.S. Marshals custody * $1.83 billion
Prisoners escorted by U.S. Marshals Service to court appearances and other required events 992,584
Total average daily detention population 61,489
  • State and local facilities
  • Private facilities (contracted)
  • Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities
Prisoners received 248,903
Agreements with state and local governments for use of detention space approximately 1,200
Contracts with privately managed detention facilities 13
Average daily prisoner detention cost $91.80

*Funded separately from U.S. Marshals Service appropriation

Prisoner Custody

Individuals arrested for federal offenses are brought before a U.S. magistrate or U.S. district court judge for their initial court appearances. The court determines whether prisoners are to be released on bond or remanded to the custody of the Marshals to await trial. Generally, slightly less than 65 percent of those arrested by federal agencies are detained at some point in the judicial process.

The Marshals received approximately 248,900 individuals in fiscal 2019, or about 996 people a day, and escorted more than 992,000 prisoners, or 3,970 prisoners per day, to court appearances or for other matters in the 94 federal judicial districts in more than 300 court cities.

Upon conviction, the Marshals generally deliver prisoners to their designated Federal Bureau of Prisons institutions to serve their sentences. Prisoners who receive short-term sentences of 90 days or less may serve their sentences in U.S. Marshals custody.

The detention of federal prisoners presents diverse and complex challenges, including:

  • Locating detention space near federal courthouses to facilitate court proceedings and attorney access
  • Coordinating with federal, state and local authorities regarding the execution of writs, court orders and the transfer of prisoners
  • Separating multiple co-defendant prisoners from each other to ensure their safety and security and the effective operation of the judicial system
  • Managing prisoners with contagious diseases and chronic illnesses

Prisoner Housing

The Marshals Service does not own or operate detention facilities but partners with state and local governments using intergovernmental agreements to house prisoners. Additionally, the agency houses prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities and private detention facilities.

As both defense attorneys and prosecutors require routine access to prisoners, the Marshals attempt to house prisoners in close proximity to the judicial district in which they are prosecuted.

The Marshals annually review state, local and private detention facilities that house federal prisoners to ensure the safe, secure and humane care and custody of those prisoners.

Prisoner Medical Care

The Marshals Service is responsible for ensuring medically necessary health care is provided to prisoners in its custody.

In fiscal 2019, the Marshals expended $123 million for prisoner medical services.

The agency is limited to paying Medicare rates for medical services provided to federal prisoners, per 18 U.S. Code § 4006.

Media Requests for Prisoner Information, Interviews and Booking Photos

The Marshals Service does not disclose any personal information, court scheduling, transportation details or other inmate information, other than to verify an inmate is in federal custody.

Prisoner interview requests may be granted when there is no objection from the U.S. attorney or prosecutor of record, the presiding trial judge, the prisoner, the defense attorney, and the management of the detention facility where the prisoner is located.

It is the responsibility of media representatives to obtain the aforementioned documentation in writing and provide it to the U.S. marshal, chief deputy U.S. marshal, or the Office of Public Affairs. Upon receipt of the required documentation, the U.S. Marshals will consider the request. Any prisoner interview requests of terrorism-related defendants must be approved, in advance, by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Department of Justice National Security Division.

The Marshals generally do not release prisoner mug shots (booking photos) for privacy reasons. (See the policy, for more information.)

Office of Public Affairs

February 25, 2020