The United States Federal Witness Protection Program, also known as the Witness Security Program or WITSEC, is a witness protection program administered by the United States Department of Justice and operated by the United States Marshals Service that is designed to protect threatened witnesses before, during, and after a trial.
A few states, including California, Illinois, New York, and Texas, have their own witness protection programs for crimes not covered by the federal program. The state-run programs provide less extensive protections than the federal program
Witnesses and their families typically get new identities with authentic documentation. The Witness Protection Program has never had a breach of security in which a protected person or family member was harmed. As of 2013, 8,500 witnesses and 9,900 family members have been protected by the U.S. Marshals Service since 1971. According to Gerald Shur, who created the federal program, about “95% of [witnesses in the program] are … criminals.”
The program’s operations are kept secret, but a few facts are revealed by the Department of Justice. Witnesses are given 24-hour-a-day security while in a high-threat environment. Money for housing, essentials, and medical care is provided to witnesses. WITSEC also provides job training and employment assistance.
A witness who agrees to testify for the prosecution is generally eligible to join the program. The program is entirely voluntary. Witnesses are permitted to leave the program and return to their original identities at any time, but this is always discouraged by administrators