WASHINGTON — Today, Senator Ben Cardin and Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (both D-Md.) introduced the Witness Security and Protection Grant Program Act of 2019, legislation that directs the U.S. Attorney General to award competitive grants to state and local governments to establish and maintain short-term witness protection programs in cases involving homicides, violent felonies, serious drug offenses, gang-related crimes or organized crime.
“Witnesses want to do the right thing and testify, but they need to know that they and their families are safe from harm. This legislation will help ensure that prosecutors in Baltimore and elsewhere around the country are not stymied in their efforts to protect our communities,” said Senator Cardin. “Congressmen Cummings and I have worked year after year to empower local and state prosecutors with the resources they need to protect the very witnesses who are essential to their investigations and keep criminals off our streets.”
“Without witnesses who feel safe working with police officers, the wheels of justice come to a screeching halt. Witness intimidation remains a significant challenge across the nation, and we have seen people intimidated and even killed in Baltimore for trying to help bring about justice,” said Congressman Cummings. “The legislation we introduced today will help state and local governments provide the specific kinds of services needed to protect witnesses and ensure they feel safe enough to testify in court.”
The Witness Security and Protection Grant Program Act of 2019 would provide $150 million in competitive grants — $30 million a year for five years — to state, local and tribal governments to establish witness assistance programs. The bill also requires the Attorney General to collect data and best practices from the grantees and report this information back to Congress, States, and other relevant entities. The Attorney General is also directed to ensure that, as practicable, grants are given to an equitable geographical distribution of programs throughout the country.
Cummings and Cardin introduced similar legislation in the 113th, 114th, and 115th Congresses. The bill is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, the National Center for Victims of Crime, the National Children’s Alliance, the National District Attorneys Association, the Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.
Click here for the bill text.