The Emergency Witness Assistance Program
Report Number I-2001-002
OTHER WITNESS ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS
The Witness Security Program
The Department's Witness Security Program (WSP), also referred to as the Witness Protection Program, was established by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-452) and was amended by the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984. Within the Department, the Criminal Division's Office of Enforcement Operations (OEO) controls admission to and provides program oversight of the WSP. The WSP was designed to assist and protect threatened witnesses involved in extremely serious cases. The WSP is comprised of two specific segments. The first involves the protection of members of the prison population serving as witnesses. The Federal Bureau of Prisons administers this segment. The second segment provides civilian witnesses that require long-term and permanent relocation with new identities, housing, living expenses, employment assistance, and other services. The United States Marshals Service (USMS) administers this segment.
The second segment of the WSP is designed to address cases where the threat to the witness is not confined to geographic boundaries or time. Admission to this segment of the WSP requires the witness to make a complete break from their previous life and to demonstrate traits that indicate that they possess potential for successful integration into the program. To ensure program integrity and security, there are strict rules concerning future contact by the witness with family or friends once in the WSP. The average cost of providing services to an individual witness in the WSP for one year is approximately $45,000 for an individual and $112,000 for a family of four. The current rate of admission into the WSP is about 150 witnesses per year.
The Short-Term Protection Program
The Short-Term Protection Program (STPP) was developed in 1992 to assist intimidated witnesses specifically involved in gang-related cases being prosecuted by the USAO in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The STPP operates under the same legal authority as the WSP and is administered by the USMS with oversight by the OEO. The STPP is designed to provide a more limited range of services than those provided by the WSP. The STPP does not provide a new identity to the witness nor does it require the witness to permanently sever all ties with his or her family or community. However, it does require that the witness sever those ties during their STPP participation. The USMS relocates witnesses (and family members, if necessary) out of town and provides them with subsistence. In addition, the USMS provides physical security for participants when they return to the jurisdiction for court appearances. Witnesses are removed from the STPP 90 days after the sentencing occurs and are provided with an additional one month's subsistence to ease their transition out of the STPP. Witnesses are free to return to the jurisdiction after their removal from the STPP and are provided the equivalent of airfare to do so. The average number of STPP witnesses per year is 25 at an annual cost of approximately $30,000 per witness.