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Criminal Resource Manual 708 Prisoner-Witnesses



BOP Protective Custody Units (PCUs) are used primarily to house protected prisoner witnesses during periods of debriefing, grand jury, and trial. Ordinarily, prisoner-witnesses will not serve their sentences in a PCU. When the danger has lessened, BOP will seek general population housing for the witness, who will remain in the Witness Security Program in that setting. Program services provided in that setting are that the witness will be separated from those posing a threat, the witness's location will not be divulged to those making inquiry, and transportation will be handled on a case-by-case basis. In cases wherein a name change is necessary, the USMS Witness Security Inspector will ensure that Judgment and Commitment orders in the prisoner-witness's new (assumed) name are delivered to the institution with the prisoner-witness.
BOP will designate prisoner-witnesses to institutions which are safe and secure. The USMS will ensure the proper security during transport, as necessary.
When a prisoner-witness is to be released from incarceration, his or her case is reviewed to determine whether it is appropriate to authorize the full services of the Program (relocation services) for him or her, if the prisoner requests consideration for full services. Among the factors reviewed are the current level of danger to the prisoner (because the danger may have dissipated over the period of incarceration) and the risk that the prisoner may pose to the public. The prosecutor and investigative agency will be asked to provide details concerning these factors and the prisoner will be evaluated by a DOJ-approved psychologist. The USMS will conduct a Preliminary Interview prior to the prisoner's release.
It is imperative that the prosecutor notify OEO immediately as soon as it is suspected that there might be a favorable ruling on a Rule 35 motion in connection with a prisoner-witness, which would result in the prisoner-witness's immediate release, so that OEO can start the process related to considering the prisoner-witness for full Program (relocation) services.
If the current threat to the witness does not warrant Program participation, the investigative agency is expected to provide any protection it deems is necessary. If the risk that the witness will pose to the public is determined to outweigh the significance of his or her cooperation, the witness will not be placed in the Program, and the investigative agency is responsible for providing any required protection. If the above circumstances are present, or if the witness declines further participation in the Program upon release, BOP will work with Federal probation and parole authorities in an attempt to have the witness released to a jurisdiction where there is no threat to the witness, including to a halfway house. BOP will not place a witness in a halfway house in a danger area. If a prisoner-witness's family is already in the Program, and is still in good standing, the prisoner will be relocated with the family as long as the risk he or she will pose to the public is not deemed to be too great.
Updated February 19, 2015