Protective Custody (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
An arrangement whereby a person is safeguarded by law enforcement authorities in a location other than the person's home because his or her safety is seriously threatened.
When a witness to a crime is intimidated not to testify because the alleged perpetrator or her associates have threatened physical violence against the witness or the witness's family, law enforcement authorities have the ability to offer the witness protective custody. Protective custody may last only until the end of a trial or it may last for several years. State and federal governments operate witness protection programs that provide assistance to those who wish to cooperate but who are afraid of physical retaliation.
Until the 1960s law enforcement used protective custody infrequently. Federal prosecution of ORGANIZED CRIME figures led to the offering of witness protection to key government informers. In 1964 Joseph Valachi became the first La Cosa Nostra member to publicly testify to the existence of the organized crime group, appearing before a congressional committee. Valachi, who was facing the death penalty, agreed to testify in return for personal protection. He was held in solitary confinement for protection and given $15 a month.
Since the 1970s the Federal Witness Security Program (18 U.S.C.A. § 3521 ) has grown in size. The program is used to fight organized...
(The entire section is 802 words.)
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