Marshals Service Burdened By New Law
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A 1984 law making it easier to obtain pretrial detention of dangerous offenders considered likely to flee has substantially increased the workload of the U.S. Marshals Service, the agency’s director said Wednesday.
Stanley E. Morris said that since Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act in the fall of 1984, the number of prisoners in the agency’s custody and the number of days prisoners have spent behind bars awaiting trial have increased substantially.
Morris reviewed his agency’s operations in a report prepared for Rep. Robert W. Kastenmeier, D-Wis., chairman of the House subcommittee on courts, civil liberties and administration of justice.
Two other provisions of the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, dealing with asset seizure and witness protection, also have had a substantial effect on the Marshals Service, Morris said in the letter.
In a briefing for reporters, the director said the legislation has given authorities new tools badly needed to deal with dangerous criminal defendants and to strip from them cash and property obtained through criminal conspiracies.
The act has created ″significant new requirements″ for the Marshals Service, which has a staff of some 2,600 officers to transport prisoners to courts, locate and apprehend suspects and provide protection to witnesses.
During the 1985 fiscal year, which ended last Sept. 30, Morris said, the amount of time deputy U.S. marshals spent in court with defendants increased 32 percent. In addition, he said, overcrowding in state and local jails ″has resulted in a crisis″ for the Marshals Service and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
By the end of fiscal 1985, he noted, the federal prison system, which now houses about 37,000 inmates, was 42 percent over capacity.
Morris said he was pleased by the impact the crime legislation was having on his agency’s work, adding separate legislation passed by Congress has added some 470 to his force.
But he said ″I cannot tell you at this juncture whether streets in America are safer,″ saying he’d leave that to government researchers to decide.
On another matter, Morris said a provision of the 1984 legislation easing conditions under which authorities can seize assets of criminals had produced more than $313 million by the end of November.
The money eventually will be ″returned to the taxpayers,″ Morris said, noting that it is kept in a separate interest-bearing account at the U.S. Treasury.
Among the assets seized was a rock music recording studio in northern California and a bank in Texas. The principal owners or managers of both had been involved in illicit drug trafficking.