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United States Government Accountability Office

Report to Congressional Committees

May 2016

PRISONER
OPERATIONS
United States
Marshals Service
Could Better Estimate
Cost Savings and
Monitor Efforts to
Increase Efficiencies

GAO-16-472

May 2016

PRISONER OPERATIONS

Highlights of GAO-16-472, a report to
congressional committees

United States Marshals Service Could Better
Estimate Cost Savings and Monitor Efforts to
Increase Efficiencies

Why GAO Did This Study

What GAO Found

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ)
USMS is responsible for managing
more than 50,000 federal prisoners
during criminal proceedings until their
acquittal or their conviction and
transfer to the Federal Bureau of
Prisons to serve their sentence. USMS
provides housing, clothing, food,
transportation, and medical care. The
USMS does not own or manage any of
its own facilities and instead relies on a
combination of federal, state, local, and
privately-managed facilities to house
and care for these prisoners. Senate
Report 113-78 of the Continuing
Appropriations Act of 2014 included a
provision for GAO to assess the costs
of housing federal inmates and
detainees.

From fiscal years 2010 through 2015, the U.S. Marshals Service’s (USMS)
largest prisoner costs were housing payments to state, local, and private prisons.
For example, in fiscal year 2015 USMS spent 86 percent of its $1.4 billion in
prisoner operation costs on housing. While total prisoner costs and prisoner
populations decreased since fiscal year 2012, per prisoner costs increased.
USMS officials attributed the increase in part to lower than expected prisoner
populations, resulting in USMS not filling guaranteed bed space at certain
facilities. Also, prisoner costs generally were higher in districts with larger
populations and limited use of federal facilities, for which USMS does not pay.
Both population and costs were highest in 5 districts along the southwest border
(see figure).

This report (1) identifies the primary
costs associated with USMS prisoner
operations, and the trends in spending
from fiscal years 2010 through 2015;
(2) assesses recent actions USMS has
taken to reduce its prisoner operations
costs and how much has been saved;
and (3) determines systems USMS has
to identify additional opportunities to
save costs. GAO analyzed USMS’s
financial and operational data related
to its prisoner operations costs from
fiscal year 2010 through 2015,
analyzed USMS documentation, and
interviewed USMS officials.

What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that USMS develop
reliable methods for estimating cost
savings and validating reported
savings achieved, and establish a
mechanism to aggregate and analyze
the results of annual district selfassessments. USMS concurred with
the recommendations.

View GAO-16-472. For more information,
contact Diana Maurer at (202) 512-8777 or
maurerd@gao.gov.

United States Marshals Service District Prisoner Costs in Fiscal Year 2015

USMS has implemented actions that it reports have continued to save prisonerrelated costs from fiscal years 2010 through 2015, such as the alternatives to
pre-trial detention program to reduce prisoners in USMS’s custody. However, for
actions with identified savings over this time period, GAO found that about $654
million of USMS’s estimated $858 million in total savings is not reliable. For
example, USMS identified $375 million in savings from the alternatives to pre-trial
detention program for fiscal years 2010 through 2015, but did not verify the data
or methodology used to develop the estimate or provide documentation
supporting its reported savings for fiscal years 2012 onward. By developing
reliable methods for estimating costs and validating savings, USMS would be
better positioned to assess the effectiveness of its cost savings efforts.
USMS has designed systems to identify opportunities for cost efficiencies,
including savings. For example, the agency requires districts to conduct annual
self-assessments of their procedures to identify any deficiencies which could lead
to cost savings. However, USMS cannot aggregate and analyze the results of the
assessments across districts. Developing a mechanism to do so would better
position USMS to identify deficiencies or develop corrective actions that could
result in additional cost savings opportunities.
United States Government Accountability Office

Contents

Letter

1
Background
USMS Facility Payments Are the Primary Prisoner Operations
Cost, and Total Prisoner Operations Costs Have Decreased
Since Fiscal Year 2012
USMS Has Taken Steps to Reduce Prison Costs, but Could
Improve the Reliability of Its Cost Savings Estimates
USMS Has Designed Systems to Identify Opportunities for
Additional Cost Efficiencies, but Could Improve its Monitoring of
Internal Control
Conclusions
Recommendations for Executive Action
Agency Comments

5

32
39
39
40

Appendix I

Objectives, Scope, and Methodology

42

Appendix II

United States Marshals Service Districts Average Daily Population
and Costs by Major Cost Category, Fiscal Year 2015

49

Appendix III

Trends in United States Marshals Service Prisoner Costs

53

Appendix IV

GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments

62

9
18

Tables
Table 1: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Districts with
Highest Average Daily Costs and the Percentage of the
Prisoner Population Housed in Private, State, Local, and
Federal Facilities, FY 2015
Table 2: Key United States Marshals Service (USMS) Cost
Savings Actions and Estimated Total Savings
Table 3: Reliability and Limitations of the United States Marshals
Service’s (USMS) Cost Savings Estimates
Table 4: Comparison of the Effect of a Changing Baseline vs. a
Constant Baseline on United States Marshals Service’s

Page i

17
19
22

GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

(USMS) Decrease in Post-Sentencing Detention Time and
Costs Savings, Fiscal Years 2011 – 2015
Table 5: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Internal Control
Processes That Are Designed To Provide Opportunities to
Identify Cost Efficiencies by Internal Control Standard
Table 6: United States Marshals Service (USMS) District Average
Daily Population (ADP) and Related Costs, Fiscal Year
2015
Table 7: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Use of State and
Local Law Enforcement Prisoner Facilities and Costs,
Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015
Table 8: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Use of Private
Prisoner Facilities and Costs, Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015
Table 9: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Costs for Prison
Guard Support by District, Fiscal Year 2015

25
36
49
53
54
59

Figures
Figure 1: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Average Daily
Detention Population by District, Fiscal Year 2015
Figure 2: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Average Daily
Detention Population, Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015
Figure 3: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Federal
Prisoner Detention Expenditures as a Percentage of Cost
Categories, Fiscal Year 2015
Figure 4: United States Marshals (USMS) Service Federal
Prisoner Detention Expenditures, Fiscal Years 2010 –
2015
Figure 5: Inflation-Adjusted Federal Prisoner Detention
Expenditures per Annual Average Prisoners Detained
Each Day, Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015
Figure 6: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Total Prisoner
Housing, Medical, and Transportation Costs by District,
Fiscal Year 2015
Figure 7: Percentage of Prisoner Population Housed in Federal,
State, Local, and Private Facilities among 10 United
States Marshals Service (USMS) Districts with the
Highest Average Daily Population, Fiscal Year 2015
Figure 8: Processing of United States Marshals Service
Sentenced Prisoners Using eDesignate
Figure 9: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Medical Costs
by Cost Category, Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015

Page ii

7
8
11
12
13
15

16
23
56

GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

Figure 10: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Transportation
Costs by Category, Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015

58

Abbreviations
ADP
AOUSC
BOP
CAP
CIP
DOJ
eIGA
ePMR
eSAG
FPD
FTE
IGA
JDIS
JPATS
OMB
OPR-CR
POD
SAG
SAT
S&E
USMS
USSC

Average Daily Population
Administrative Office of the United States Courts
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Cooperative Agreement Program
Capital Improvement Program
Department of Justice
electronic Intergovernmental Agreement
electronic Prisoner Medical Request
electronic Self-Assessment Guide
Federal Prisoner Detention
full-time equivalent
Intergovernmental Agreement
Justice Detainee Information System
Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System
Office of Management and Budget
Office of Professional Responsibility, Compliance Review
Prisoner Operations Division
Self-Assessment Guide
Senior Assessment Team
Salaries and Expenses
United States Marshals Service
United States Sentencing Commission

This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the
United States. The published product may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety
without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain
copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be
necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately.

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GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

Letter

441 G St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20548

May 23, 2016
Congressional Committees
The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) United States Marshals Service
(USMS) is responsible for managing more than 50,000 federal
prisoners—providing for their housing, clothing, food, transportation,
medical care, and presenting prisoners for court appearances during
criminal proceedings. 1 According to DOJ’s budget documentation, in
fiscal year 2015, USMS allocated approximately $1.65 billion to provide
housing, transportation, and medical care for its prisoners, and for USMS
salaries and expenses involved in prisoner security and transportation.
The USMS does not own or manage any of its own facilities and instead
relies on a combination of federal, state, local, and privately-managed
facilities to house and care for these prisoners. Presidentially-appointed
U.S. Marshals lead USMS’s multi-missioned operations within the 94
geographical districts, which align with U.S. Court judicial districts
throughout the states and territories.
Senate Report 113-78 of the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2014
included a provision for GAO to, among other things, assess the costs of
housing federal prisoners and opportunities to offset those costs. 2 This
report focuses on USMS’s prisoner operations responsibilities and costs.
Specifically, this report (1) describes the primary costs associated with
USMS prisoner operations, and the trends in spending from fiscal years
2010 through 2015; (2) assesses recent actions USMS has taken to
reduce its prisoner operations costs and how much has been saved; and

1

Under 28 C.F.R. § 0.111, the USMS is responsible for the custody of federal prisoners
from the time of their arrest by a marshal or their remand to a marshal by a court, until the
prisoner is committed by order of the court to the custody of the Attorney General for the
service of sentence, otherwise released from custody by the court, or returned to the
custody of the U.S. Parole Commission or the Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The USMS is
also responsible for maintaining custody of prisoners until their acquittal or their conviction
and transfer to BOP to serve their sentence, and coordinating their transportation anytime
movement is required post-incarceration, such as for transfers among BOP facilities.

2

S. Rep. No. 113-78 (2013). Also in response to Senate Report 113-78, we conducted a
review of DOJ’s recent initiatives to address the growing federal prison population. See
GAO, Federal Prison System: Justice Could Better Measure Progress Addressing
Incarceration Challenges, GAO-15-454 (Washington, D.C.: June 19, 2015).

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GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

(3) determines what systems USMS has to identify additional
opportunities to save costs.
To identify costs and trends, we reviewed USMS’s congressional budget
justifications for activities from fiscal years 2010 through 2015 to identify
USMS-reported cost drivers. 3 We selected this time period because we
believe that 6 years is sufficient time to identify trends in prisoner
operations costs. We focused our review on the USMS Federal Prisoner
Detention appropriation (FPD) because it pays for about 85 percent of
total USMS prisoner operations costs. 4 We also obtained and analyzed
data for USMS’s financial and operational activities related to prisoner
operations from fiscal years 2010 through 2015, including obtaining
underlying cost data for housing, medical, and transportation costs, which
we then aggregated at the district level.
We have assessed the reliability of these data and, though we found
some inconsistencies, determined them reliable for the purposes of
identifying and describing the primary cost drivers and the districts’
relative prisoner operation costs from the FPD. This reliability assessment
included conducting checks for completeness and logical consistency,
obtaining documentation on systems end-user capabilities and data
control, interviewing data users and managers, and comparing data to
previous USMS reported data. The inconsistencies we identified included
receiving different total costs for state and local prison facility usage,
missing fewer than 5 days of population counts at private facilities, and
missing or inconsistent facility designations. The largest discrepancy
between our calculated costs and USMS reported total costs appeared in
3

In support of the President’s budget request, departments submit congressional budget
justifications to the appropriate appropriations committees, typically to provide additional
information regarding the changes between the current appropriation and the amounts
requested for the next fiscal year.

4

This report focuses on FPD costs because it is the largest appropriation related to
prisoner-related costs, and all funds paid through the FPD are for prisoner detention
services only. The USMS salaries and expenses appropriation (S&E) pays for all USMS
district personnel conducting its multiple missions, of which prisoner security &
transportation is one mission. In 2015, USMS allocated approximately 20 percent of its
S&E account for Prisoner Security & Transportation. The allocation provided salaries to
USMS officials in the field to conduct activities associated with securing and transporting
prisoners. This allocation provides an additional 15 percent through the S&E appropriation
for total prisoner-related costs. USMS salaries are generally not a cost associated with the
FPD appropriation.

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GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

fiscal year 2012 at less than 2 percent. In addition, we interviewed
officials from the Prisoner Operations Division (POD) in headquarters to
obtain USMS’s views on identified cost drivers and trends. POD is
responsible for developing policy and working with district U.S. Marshals
to, among other things, identify cost efficient methods for detaining
prisoners. We corroborated POD officials’ views by conducting interviews
with USMS officials in 3 selected districts—the Southern District of
California, the Northern District of Georgia, and the District of Maryland.
We chose these districts because of geographical disparity, size of prison
populations, and unique actions taken or ancillary missions conducted.
While not generalizable to all USMS districts, these views provide insights
into costs and trends in prisoner operations.
To assess the recent actions USMS has taken to reduce its prisoner
operations costs, we reviewed USMS’s congressional budget justification
and interviewed officials to compile a list of prisoner-related actions that
had monetized cost savings for fiscal years 2010 through 2015. We
chose this time period to align with our review of USMS’s prisoner
operations cost trends. To determine the extent to which USMS’s
estimated savings are reliable, we analyzed USMS documents and data,
where available, such as documentation of the methodology and resulting
dollar figures from each initiative’s savings estimate. We compared each
of USMS’s cost savings estimates against Office of Management and
Budget’s Guidelines and Discount Rates for Benefit-Cost Analysis of
Federal Programs and best practices outlined in Assessing the Reliability
of Computer-Processed Data to determine the extent to which the
estimates were sufficiently comprehensive, accurate, consistent, and
transparent. 5 For each savings estimate for which we were able to obtain
documentation of assumptions and methodologies, we assessed whether
major assumptions were reasonable by conducting or evaluating
sensitivity analyses, and reviewed estimates to ensure that assumptions
were consistently and accurately applied. Further, we interviewed agency
officials to corroborate initiatives we had identified; identify any
unreported cost savings actions; and obtain an explanation of the

5
The Office of Management and Budget, Guidelines and Discount Rates for Benefit-Cost
Analysis of Federal Programs, OMB Circular No. A-94, (Washington D.C.: Oct. 29, 1992);
GAO, Assessing the Reliability of Computer-Processed Data, GAO-09-680G (Washington,
D.C.: July 1, 2009).

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methodologies behind cost savings estimates, clarify discrepancies, and
obtain information in support of the estimates.
To determine USMS’s systems to identify additional cost savings
opportunities, we reviewed the processes and tools that USMS used in
fiscal years 2010 through 2015 to identify, implement, and promote costefficiency and savings, such as its Strategic Plan and scorecards it uses
to track facility use in its districts. To address how USMS identifies
additional cost savings opportunities, we analyzed elements of USMS’s
internal control system related to achieving operational efficiencies and
interviewed cognizant USMS officials responsible for programming and
internal controls to determine whether USMS has designed a
management structure and processes to routinely assess its
administrative and operational activities for possible corrective actions.
We did not independently test USMS’s internal controls to determine
whether they mitigate all possible risks and are operating as intended. We
reviewed USMS’s mechanisms and processes leading to its internal
review of operational and administrative functions, including its process
for taking corrective action related to high-cost areas, such as
procurement and human resources, and compared those characteristics
with those called for in Standards for Internal Control in the Federal
Government and in implementing the guidance in the OMB Circular No.
A-123, Management’s Responsibility for Internal Control, which defines
management’s responsibility for internal control in federal agencies. 6 For
more information about our scope and methodology, see appendix I.
We conducted this performance audit from March 2015 to May 2016 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
6

GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, GAO/AIMD-00.21.3.1
(Washington, D.C.: November 1999). Internal control is an integral component of an
organization’s management that provides reasonable assurance that the following
objectives are being achieved: effectiveness and efficiency of operations, reliability of
financial reporting, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Office of
Management and Budget, Management’s Responsibility for Internal Control, OMB Circular
No. A-123 (Washington, D.C.: Dec. 21, 2004). This circular provides guidance to federal
managers on improving the accountability and effectiveness of federal programs and
operations by establishing, assessing, correcting, and reporting on internal control. The
circular provides internal control standards and specific requirements for conducting
management’s assessment of the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting.

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GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives.

Background
USMS’s Organization and
Funding

USMS operations cover five broad mission areas, including prisoner
security and transportation, which is overseen by its Prisoner Operations
Division (POD). The POD at USMS headquarters is responsible for
managing the prison-related expenses, developing policy for district
personnel when conducting prisoner-related operations, and supporting
district activities to, among other things, identify cost-effective measures
to house and care for prisoners. U.S. Marshals direct operations in 94
districts, and generally operate autonomously from headquarters. 7
USMS’s prisoner operations activities are funded through two separate
appropriations: the Federal Prisoner Detention (FPD) appropriation, and
the Salaries and Expenses (S&E) appropriation. USMS uses FPD funding
for the housing and care of federal prisoners in private, state, and local
facilities. This appropriation also includes expenses related to prisoner
transportation and medical care. The POD allocates funding from the
FPD to district U.S. Marshals for their related prisoner costs, and is
responsible for tracking the financial management of the FPD
appropriation and monitoring district prisoner-related expenditures.
USMS’s Office of Professional Responsibility, Compliance Review
(OPR-CR) oversees the internal compliance review of USMS staff,
division and district offices; the implementation of OMB Circular A-123;
and ensures the integrity of the agency’s internal controls and the
reliability of its financial reporting. OPR-CR is responsible for coordinating
USMS’s assessments under the Federal Managers’ Financial Integrity Act
(FMFIA), as well as planning and executing the A-123 assessments in

7

USMS mission responsibilities include fugitive apprehension, witness and court
protection and security, federal prisoner security and transportation, custody and
management of property and money administered under the Department of Justice Asset
Forfeiture Fund, and special missions. In general, a cadre of Deputy U.S. Marshals in the
district conducts these various activities collectively.

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GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

support of management’s annual assertions of the organization’s internal
controls effectiveness. 8

USMS Detention
Expenditures

The primary drivers of USMS’s detention expenditures are the number of
prisoners in USMS custody, and the length of time they are held in
detention. The average number of prisoners in USMS custody per day—
the average daily population (ADP)—is directly influenced, among other
things, by the activities and decisions of federal law enforcement, U.S.
Attorneys, and the federal judiciary. For instance, as figure 1
demonstrates, USMS’s ADP in fiscal year 2015 was concentrated along
the southwest border, reflecting law enforcement and prosecutorial
priorities related to immigration. For a complete list of ADP by district for
fiscal year 2015, see appendix II.

8

FMFIA, Pub. L. No. 97-255, 96 Stat. 814 (1982), was enacted to strengthen internal
controls and accounting systems in the federal government and requires the Comptroller
General to issue standards for internal control in the federal government.

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Figure 1: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Average Daily Detention Population by District, Fiscal Year 2015

Further, as figure 2 shows, USMS’s ADP peaked in fiscal year 2011 at
61,469, but fell to 51,670 in fiscal year 2015, a 16 percent decrease.
According to USMS, this may be the result of factors such as reduced
funding for federal law enforcement agencies, hiring freezes resulting
from the sequestration that occurred in fiscal year 2013, and changes in
prosecutorial practices and priorities stemming from the Attorney
General’s Smart on Crime initiative, which is a set of actions directed at
addressing DOJ’s ongoing issues related to prison overcrowding, costs,
and recidivism.

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Figure 2: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Average Daily Detention
Population, Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015

Prisoner Housing

USMS does not own or operate its own detention facilities. Instead it
relies on existing federal, state, and local infrastructure, and to some
extent on private contract facilities, to house USMS prisoners. As such,
USMS acquires bed space for prisoners through (1) use of beds at
Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) facilities, for which USMS does not pay;
(2) intergovernmental agreements (IGA) with state and local jurisdictions
that have excess prison or jail bed capacity and with which USMS
negotiates a daily rate for the use of a bed, and (3) private jail facilities

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with which USMS enters a fixed price contract based on a minimum
number of prisoners it guarantees to house at a facility. 9

USMS Facility
Payments Are the
Primary Prisoner
Operations Cost, and
Total Prisoner
Operations Costs
Have Decreased
Since Fiscal Year
2012
Facility Payments
Comprise About 86
Percent of USMS’s
Prisoner Operations Costs

In fiscal year 2015, USMS expended about $1.20 billion in payments to
state and local government and private detention facilities. As illustrated
in figure 3, this accounted for about 86 percent of the total $1.40 billion
USMS expended through its FPD appropriation. 10 Such payments cover
prisoner housing, including meals, clothes and linens, and other

9

USMS’s IGA facilities are fixed rate facilities, where USMS pays an amount for
guaranteed capacity at each facility. However, one of the facilities, the Chesapeake
Detention Facility, is the result of a program called the Capital Improvement Program
(CIP). The CIP is a program used to address USMS detention space needs that offers
various contractual vehicles to provide federal funding to state and local authorities for the
expansion, renovation, and construction of jails or the acquisition of related materials in
exchange for detention beds. As such, in fiscal year 2010, USMS used the CIP to provide
the state of Maryland funding to keep a facility scheduled to be closed open for sole
USMS use. The funding for this facility served to have the facility renovated to meet
USMS federal detention standards, and to provide USMS with guaranteed detention
space.
10
The $1.40 billion for FPD expenditures does not represent all USMS prisoner-related
costs. The USMS salaries and expenses appropriation pays for USMS district personnel
to conduct multiple missions, including prisoner security and transportation. This report
focuses on FPD costs for prisoner security and transportation because they are solely for
prisoner detention services and constitute about 85 percent of total prisoner operations
costs.

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incidentals associated with providing care for prisoners in USMS
custody. 11 In addition to prisoner housing payments, USMS expended
about $115 million on medical care in fiscal year 2015—about 8 percent
of spending during the fiscal year. Such expenses include health care
services, transportation costs for moving prisoners to offsite medical
facilities and the cost of external guards securing prisoners at these
facilities. Transportation services was the third largest cost category,
comprising an additional $53 million—4 percent of total costs in fiscal
year 2015. The prisoner transportation category includes transportation
services and guard costs associated with securing the prisoners during
transportation. 12 In addition, USMS spent about $24 million—or 2 percent
of total costs in fiscal year 2015—on system-wide detention program
expenditures, which include headquarters operations and information
technology systems support. For more details on the trends in each of
these cost areas, see appendix III.

11

In certain cases, USMS housing contracts and agreements also include medical care,
guard services, and transportation services to courthouses. According to USMS officials,
such costs are built in to the contract or intergovernmental agreement and are not billed or
tracked separately from the monthly payments provided for housing prisoners. For the
purposes of this report, these built-in medical and transportation costs are therefore
included in housing costs, rather than with medical and transportation costs, because
USMS was unable to identify these specific costs and, thus, we were unable to remove
them from housing costs and include them with medical and transportation costs. About 6
percent of IGA facilities provided transportation or medical services built in to the
negotiated per prisoner costs.
12

Transportation costs do not include (1) transportation for medical purposes, which
USMS categorizes as a medical cost; and (2) transportation costs that would be paid
through the USMS S&E allocation, which pays for the salaries of the USMS deputy U.S.
Marshals to conduct their multiple missions in the districts, of which prisoner security and
transportation is one.

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Figure 3: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Federal Prisoner Detention
Expenditures as a Percentage of Cost Categories, Fiscal Year 2015

Federal Prisoner
Population and Detention
Costs Have Decreased
Since Fiscal Year 2012,
but Per Prisoner Costs
Have Increased

As figure 4 illustrates, from fiscal years 2010 through 2012, FPD nominal
costs increased from $1.41 billion to nearly $1.54 billion, an increase of
about 9 percent over the two-year period. 13 By fiscal year 2015, costs
dropped slightly below fiscal year 2010 nominal costs, with expenditures
at about $1.40 billion. USMS officials attribute the decrease in costs to the
decrease of ADP, indicating fewer prisoners to house from fiscal year
2012 through fiscal year 2015.

13
Nominal costs refer to costs for activities conducted during respective fiscal years
without adjusting these costs for inflation.

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Figure 4: United States Marshals (USMS) Service Federal Prisoner Detention
Expenditures, Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015

To show changes in cost per prisoner, we adjusted the expenditures data
to account for inflation changes for all 6 years. As figure 5 shows, our
analysis of the inflation-adjusted FPD costs per prisoner—FPD costs
divided by annual ADP—found that FPD per prisoner costs were highest
in fiscal year 2015. USMS data show that ADP reached its peak in fiscal
year 2011 at about 61,500, and has since dropped. 14

14
Costs per prisoner ADP included housing costs, medical costs, and transportation costs.
The sum of these costs was divided by the annual ADP.

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Figure 5: Inflation-Adjusted Federal Prisoner Detention Expenditures per Annual
Average Prisoners Detained Each Day, Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015

Note: Average daily population (ADP) refers to the average number of prisoners held in United States
Marshals Service (USMS) custody during each day in the given year. “Costs per prisoner ADP” refers
to the yearly cost of housing, transportation, and medical care per ADP paid through the Federal
Prisoner Detention Appropriation. Costs exclude USMS operation costs like headquarters personnel
and information technology costs. Total costs for each year have been adjusted to fiscal year 2015
dollars.

USMS officials stated that per prisoner detention costs fluctuate for
various reasons. For instance, USMS makes agreements with facilities
based on future-year forecasts of ADP, including providing monthly
minimum guaranteed costs for guaranteed space at certain facilities,
where there is an anticipated need for additional prisoner housing in the
future. In years when ADP did not meet forecasted amounts, USMS paid
guaranteed minimum amounts for fewer prisoners than projected, leading
to higher costs per prisoner. Additionally, USMS officials stated that in
some circumstances, USMS continued to use some of these facilities
even though it might not have been the most cost effective approach.
USMS officials stated that they continue to use state and local
government facilities in some districts to maintain relationships with law
enforcement. This helps ensure that USMS can rely on these jurisdictions
in future years for both prisoner operations and other operations requiring
state and local cooperation, such as leveraging state and local law
enforcement officials and resources to help capture fugitives. Specifically,

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the USMS officials explained that, if USMS does not help the jurisdictions
to maintain their prisoner infrastructure, then some facilities in these
jurisdictions would likely close. As a result, USMS would have fewer
facilities available to detain federal prisoners in these jurisdictions, and
fewer state and local personnel available to aid USMS with its other
missions.
USMS’s total medical costs also rose from fiscal years 2010 to 2015.
While the USMS annual ADP decreased during this time period, nominal
medical expenditures increased by 30 percent from $88 million to $115
million. USMS’s medical costs as a percentage of total prisoner costs also
increased from about 6 percent to 8 percent. USMS officials stated that
medical costs can fluctuate widely regardless of the number of prisoners
based on the number and type of procedures, which can affect the total
costs expended in the FPD. USMS officials stated that it had more
expensive medical procedures, such as more heart, diabetic, and optical
procedures, to cover in 2015 than in 2010.

Costs Are Higher in
Districts Where Prisoner
Population Is
Concentrated and the
Districts Cannot Rely on
BOP Facilities to House
Most Prisoners

In general, districts with larger prisoner populations have more costs than
districts with lower prisoner populations. Specifically, the 10 districts with
the highest average ADP for fiscal year 2015 accounted for about 50
percent of the average daily detention population for USMS. 15 These 10
districts also accounted for about 49 percent of total expenditures among
all districts. 16 In addition, we found that the 5 districts along the Southwest
border with Mexico had both the highest ADP and the highest attributed
costs among the districts. See figure 6 for a breakout of costs attributed to
district operations. For a list of district costs for housing, medical, and
transportation costs, see appendix II.

15
These 10 districts include (1) Southern District of Texas, (2) Western District of Texas,
(3) District of Arizona, (4) Southern District of California, (5) District of New Mexico, (6)
Southern District of New York, (7) District of Puerto Rico, (8) Southern District of Florida,
(9) Central District of California, and (10) Western District of Missouri.
16
Such costs included all housing, medical, and transportation costs attributable to the
districts. It excluded costs for JPATS housing or air transportation, or costs attributable to
USMS headquarters components from the FPD, including health care costs attributed to
USMS headquarters. In fiscal year 2015, JPATS ADP accounted for about 1 percent of
total ADP and, when compared to district prisoner housing, would be the thirteenth largest
“district” and spent almost $20 million to house prisoners.

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Figure 6: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Total Prisoner Housing, Medical, and Transportation Costs by District,
Fiscal Year 2015

Our analysis shows that ADP does not entirely explain the cost trends
among districts. For instance, among the 10 districts with the highest
ADP, 4 of them account for only about 4 percent of total district costs
among all 94 districts, while the other 6 districts account for almost 45
percent of the remaining total district costs. As figure 7 shows, this is in
large degree because these 4 districts—the Southern District of New
York, the District of Puerto Rico, the Southern District of Florida, and the
Central District of California—rely heavily on federal facilities operated
and paid for by BOP, not USMS, placing between 73 and 87 percent of
the ADP in a BOP facility in a given year. The remaining 6 districts,
however, rely less heavily on federal facilities—for which USMS does not

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pay—and more heavily on a mixture of IGA, and private infrastructure to
house its prisoners.
Figure 7: Percentage of Prisoner Population Housed in Federal, State, Local, and
Private Facilities among 10 United States Marshals Service (USMS) Districts with
the Highest Average Daily Population, Fiscal Year 2015

Moreover, 5 of the 6 districts with the highest ADP that rely more heavily
on state and local or private facilities are also located along the southwest
border. 17 USMS officials stated that bed space in locations with the
17
In figure 7, the top 6 districts listed rely on state and local or private facilities for more
than 50 percent of their ADP, whereas the bottom 4 rely on federal facilities for more than
50 percent of ADP. The 6 districts that rely more on state, local, or private facilities are (1)
New Mexico, (2) Western Texas, (3) Western Missouri, (4) Arizona, (5) Southern Texas,
and (6) Southern California. Of the 6, only Western Missouri is not adjacent to the
southwest border.

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highest ADP—such as along the southwest border—often overtake the
federal, state, and local facilities’ capacity. In response, USMS has
entered into contracts with private facilities to meet the demand.
According to USMS officials, while private facilities appear to be more
expensive overall, most are located in districts where the costs of bed
space are already more expensive than average because the demand
outstripped capacity. Thus, paying for private facility capacity requires
paying higher costs.
In addition to identifying the 10 districts with the highest ADP for fiscal
year 2015, we also identified the 10 districts with the highest costs per
day—that is, prisoner housing, medical, and transportation costs directly
attributable to each district divided by the average daily detention
population—which are listed in table 1.
Table 1: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Districts with Highest Average Daily Costs and the Percentage of the
Prisoner Population Housed in Private, State, Local, and Federal Facilities, FY 2015
Percentage of Prisoners in Type of Facilityb

ADP

ADP Rank among
Districts (94)

Cost per daya

Federal

State and Local

Private

Maryland

500

24

$147.89

0

100

0

Alaska

105

81

$143.66

4

96

0

Nevada

438

26

$131.76

0

17

83

Maine

124

76

$113.57

0

100

0

Massachusetts

404

30

$110.45

0

100

0

Northern California

511

23

$107.44

1

92

6

Western New York

480

25

$105.73

0

80

19

Northern
New York

265

50

$104.98

4

95

0

Western North
Carolina

593

20

$104.71

0

100

0

Eastern California

696

17

$104.70

0

92

8

District

Legend: ADP = Average Daily Population; FY = Fiscal Year.
Source: GAO analysis of USMS cost and detention information | GAO-16-472.
a

Cost per day is calculated by identifying total prisoner housing, medical, and transportation costs
attributed to the districts and dividing the cost by the ADP for each district. Costs are then divided by
the number of days in the year. Cost per day does not include any costs incurred through district
operations that are paid through USMS headquarters, such as air transportation costs or health care
costs not attributed to specific districts.
b

Percentages do not necessarily equal to 100 percent because of rounding.

Similar to our analysis of the districts with highest ADP, districts with the
highest costs per day is likely affected by whether they can use a BOP

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facility to offset housing costs. In particular, as table 1 shows, of the 10
districts with the highest costs per day, none rely on BOP facilities to
house more than 4 percent of their prisoner populations. Further, only 2 of
the 10 districts rely on private facilities to house more than 10 percent of
their prisoner populations. USMS officials stated that other factors affect
the variation of costs. For instance, officials explained that variations in
the prevailing wage rates in the district impact housing costs greatly.
USMS officials stated that wage rates in northeast districts and Alaska
are higher than in other districts such as in the southeast districts.
Further, officials noted that real estate costs in different areas of the
country can greatly affect how much USMS must pay. For instance,
USMS officials stated that districts with large metropolitan areas, such as
Massachusetts and Maryland, pay higher real estate costs than in
locations that are more rural. Lastly, USMS officials stated that lower ADP
in districts in more remote locations results in higher costs per ADP
because there are some structural costs that then are shared among
fewer prisoners. For instance, Alaska and Maine rank among the lowest
ADPs on average, and the per day jail costs include higher indirect costs
such as maintenance of the prisoner facilities. Such variations may affect
jail costs per day among all the districts to some extent; therefore, it is
difficult to compare costs among the districts without considering such
pressures on cost.

USMS Has Taken
Steps to Reduce
Prison Costs, but
Could Improve the
Reliability of Its Cost
Savings Estimates
USMS Implemented
Several Initiatives and
Other Actions to Reduce
Prison Operations Costs

USMS has implemented a number of actions to manage costs and meet
its strategic goal of optimizing detention operations, which it estimates
have achieved costs savings in fiscal years 2010 through 2015.
Specifically, USMS automated its detention management services,
developed housing options intended to reduce costs, invested in
alternatives to pre-trial detention to help reduce housing and medical
expenditures, and improved its management of medical claims. Table 2

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provides detail on the key cost saving initiatives that USMS has identified
and USMS’s estimated total cost savings. 18
Table 2: Key United States Marshals Service (USMS) Cost Savings Actions and Estimated Total Savings
USMS-Estimated Total
Savings

Category

Initiative

Automated Detention
Management Services

Electronic Intergovernmental Agreement (eIGA) system - eliminates the former
paper-based application and review process for state and local facility providers
offering detention services to federal agencies. It also provides a structure for
price negotiation for detention services.

$204 milliona

eDesignate/eMove system - automates the post sentencing process by
enabling multiple entitiesb to electronically transfer data and documents to
reduce processing time, resulting in the reduction of average detention time in
USMS custody.

$222 million

Electronic Prisoner Medical Request (ePMR) system - automates the approval
process for requests for detainee medical services from USMS districts to
USMS headquarters.

$935,000

Capital Improvement
USMS addressed the need for detention space in Maryland by entering into a
Program (Chesapeake) cooperative agreement with the state of Maryland. USMS provided $20 million
for additional construction of the Chesapeake Detention Facility and the use of
500 beds for its prisoners, from FY 2010 through FY 2025.

$53.6 millionc

Alternatives to Pre-Trial USMS annually provides $4 million to the Administrative Office of the U.S.
Detention
Court’s (AOUSC)d to supplement its funding for alternatives to pre-trial detention
program to reduce the potential number of USMS detainees.

$375 million

Improved management USMS reviews approximately 50 percent of districts’ requests for prisoners’
of medical claims and
outside medical care and manages prisoners’ care for those approved requests.
care
This management resulted in denied claims as well as the cost-effective
management of prisoners’ medical needs.

$2.4 million

Source: GAO analysis and USMS congressional budget justification. | GAO-16-472.
a

This total estimate includes savings for fiscal years 2007 through 2015.

b

These entities include the federal judiciary, USMS, Bureau of Prisons, and Justice Prisoner and Alien
Transportation System.
c

This total estimate includes actual and projected savings for fiscal year 2011 through 2025.

d

The AOUSC serves the federal judiciary in carrying out its constitutional mission to provide equal
justice under the law through a wide range of administrative, legal, financial, management, program,
and information technology services to the federal courts.

18
For the purpose of this analysis, we defined cost savings to include cost avoidance.
OMB A-131 defines cost savings as a reduction in actual expenditures below the
projected level of costs to achieve a specific objective. A “cost avoidance” is an action
taken in the immediate time frame that will decrease costs in the future. “Cost savings” is
a reduction in actual expenditures below the projected level of costs to achieve a specific
objective.

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In addition to the above initiatives, officials explained that USMS has
sought to avoid costs by increasing USMS’s use of federal facilities.
Doing so allows USMS to decrease costs because, according to a USMSBOP memorandum of understanding, BOP allocates and maintains
detention bed space to house USMS’s prisoners, and USMS does not
incur housing related costs for the use of these federal spaces. 19 USMS
officials explained that they have not developed a cost savings estimate
for the BOP bed space USMS uses because USMS does not consider its
use of BOP facilities as a cost saving action. Officials, however, noted
that USMS monitors unused federal bed space and calculates additional
costs USMS could avoid if districts were to use those unoccupied spaces.
For example, USMS estimated it could have avoided an additional $21.6
million in costs if districts had utilized the unused BOP-allocated spaces
in the Brooklyn federal detention facility in fiscal year 2015. However,
according to USMS officials, operational limitations such as a federal
facility’s distance from assigned courthouses hinders USMS ability to fully
use all allocated spaces.
From fiscal years 2010 through 2015, USMS increased the percentage of
its prisoner population that used BOP facilities from about 18 percent of
total ADP in fiscal year 2010 to about 19 percent in fiscal year 2015.
Further, our analysis shows that USMS avoided costs ranging from $321
million to $392 million for fiscal years 2010 through 2015, if USMS had to
pay for bed space it used at BOP federal facilities. In addition, our
analysis found that the Department of Justice potentially saved $73
million in fiscal year 2015 by having USMS use allocated space at BOP
facilities to house its prisoners instead of housing those prisoners at
private facilities.

19

United States Marshals Service and the Federal Bureau of Prisons: Memorandum of
Understanding Regarding the Detention of Federal Prisoners (Oct. 10, 2007). BOP
receives funding for housing USMS prisoners in federal facilities directly through the
annual appropriations process. BOP’s budget requests include all prisoners and detainees
and do not differentiate between USMS and BOP prisoners. However, USMS is
responsible for the costs of outside medical care for USMS’s prisoners housed at BOP
facilities.

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USMS Could Better
Develop, Document, and
Validate Some Estimates
to Improve Reliability
When Determining Cost
Savings

According to USMS’s congressional budget justification and USMS
officials, the agency has realized approximately $858 million in total costs
savings through the cost savings initiatives identified in table 2. However,
based on our analysis of USMS’s cost savings estimates, discussions
with USMS officials, and comparison of the estimates against Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) and GAO guidance related to cost
estimation, we found that approximately $654 million of USMS’s total cost
savings estimate has limited reliability because five of USMS’s six cost
savings estimates were not sufficiently comprehensive, accurate,
consistent, or well-documented.
Specifically, based on guidance from OMB and GAO guidance for
assessing the reliability of computer processed data, reliable cost
estimates—such as USMS’s $858 million estimate—should be
comprehensive, accurate, consistent, and well-documented. In particular,
OMB guidance on conducting a cost-benefit analysis states that the
analysis should include a comprehensive estimate of different types of
benefits (such as cost savings) minus costs. 20 OMB guidance further
states that the analysis should be explicit about the underlying
assumptions and key sources of uncertainty used to arrive at the
estimates of future benefits and costs. Key data, models used in the
analysis, and results of benefits and costs should be reported and welldocumented to promote independent review and analysis. Further,
according to guidance for assessing the reliability of computer processed
data, including estimates and projections, data are reliable when data are
reasonably complete, accurate, and consistent—a subcategory of
accuracy. 21 Table 3 shows the extent to which USMS’s estimates were
reliable and, if appropriate, limitations of the estimates, and details of our
analysis of the estimates by cost saving action follow.

20

OMB Circular No. A-94.

21

GAO, Assessing the Reliability of Computer-Processed Data, GAO-09-680G
(Washington, D.C.: July 1, 2009).

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Table 3: Reliability and Limitations of the United States Marshals Service’s (USMS) Cost Savings Estimates
If not reliable, what are the GAO-assessed limitations?
Initiative

Is the estimate reliable?

eIGA

Yes

Comprehensiveness

Accuracy

ePMR

No

●

eDesignate

No

●

Chesapeake Detention
Facility

No

●

Alternatives to Pre-trial
Detention

No

●

Improved management of
medical claims

No

●

Well-documented

●

Legend: ● = GAO-assessed limitation of the costs savings estimate.
Source: GAO analysis of USMS information | GAO-16-472.

•

eIGA: Based on our analysis, USMS applied reasonable assumptions
and used a reasonable methodology to reliably estimate $204.3
million in savings from the implementation of eIGA. Specifically,
USMS calculated the difference in the “proposed” versus “negotiated”
per diem rate for each intergovernmental agreement which was
negotiated using this system. Additionally, savings identified can be
solely attributed to the implementation of the system because, prior to
eIGA, USMS did not negotiate the per diem rate for housing
prisoners.

•

ePMR: Based on our analysis, we found that USMS applied
reasonable assumptions, but its estimate of $935,000 in cost savings
during fiscal years 2011 through 2015 from the implementation of
ePMR is not comprehensive. Officials said that as a result of
implementing ePMR, USMS has avoided $187,000 in costs per year
by not having to hire additional staff to manage the increased number
of medical claims, which have increased since then. They based this
estimate on the number of cases USMS headquarters managed in
fiscal year 2011. However, we found that the number of medical
cases USMS headquarters managed has increased since fiscal year
2011. As a result, USMS would have needed approximately 6
additional staff to manage the average number of medical claims in
fiscal years 2011 through 2015. Further, USMS costs avoided over

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the five fiscal years would equal approximately $2.7 million, not
$935,000. 22
We found that USMS underestimated its ePMR costs savings
because it excluded efficiencies and savings realized in subsequent
years. OMB guidance recommends agencies include a
comprehensive analysis of benefits and costs. 23 A savings estimate
that includes savings realized in all 5 fiscal years could help USMS
identify the full range of the program’s effect.
eDesignate: Based on our analysis, the cost savings estimate of
$222 million for the implementation of eDesignate is not
comprehensive because USMS may have double counted savings
associated with the use of the system over time and included savings
not attributable to the system. 24 Specifically, USMS officials told us
that eDesignate reduced the post-sentencing processing time for
prisoners in USMS’s custody, decreasing prisoner average detention
time, and, thereby, USMS’s housing costs. Figure 8 illustrates the
processing of sentenced prisoners using eDesignate.

•

Figure 8: Processing of United States Marshals Service Sentenced Prisoners Using eDesignate

22

We, similar to USMS, excluded fiscal year 2010 from our analysis because it was the
year in which the program was implemented.
23

OMB Circular No. A-94.

24

GAO, Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide, GAO-09-3SP (Washington, D.C.: March
2009). Cost estimating, including cost savings estimates, best practices states that a
comprehensive estimate ensures that cost elements are neither omitted nor double
counted.

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To capture cost savings achieved after the use of eDesignate, USMS
•

derived a baseline detention time using the average detention
time from fiscal years 2008 through 2010—73.4 days—to which
post-implementation average detention time could be compared;

•

calculated the difference in average detention times between the
baseline and monthly average detention time from FY 2011
through 2015; and

•

multiplied this difference by the average daily costs of housing its
prisoners.

OMB guidance states that benefits and costs analysis should be
based on incremental benefits and costs. Specifically, all sunk costs
and benefits already realized should be ignored. 25 However, our
analysis shows that USMS may have double counted the time
reductions and cost savings achieved over time by continuing to use
the same 73.4 days baseline to calculate change in detention time
and cost savings achieved each year after the implementation of
eDesignate. Specifically, as shown in table 4 the estimated amount of
cost savings is greater when USMS continues to measure against the
73.4 days baseline instead of revising the baseline each year to
account for reduced detention time achieved in the preceding years.
For instance, if USMS used the change in annual average detention
time to calculate costs savings for fiscal years 2011 through 2015, it
would have estimated approximately $52 million versus $222 million.
Thus, using this baseline may overstate the savings achieved from
reduced detention time. Further, USMS did not take into account any
other factors which might also have affected a change in average
detention time and, ultimately, savings estimates related to the
system. For example, officials said that a BOP contract closure at a
facility impacted USMS housing of its prisoners and resulted in the
high average detention time for fiscal year 2011.

25

OMB Circular No. A-94.

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Table 4: Comparison of the Effect of a Changing Baseline vs. a Constant Baseline on United States Marshals Service’s
(USMS) Decrease in Post-Sentencing Detention Time and Costs Savings, Fiscal Years 2011 – 2015

Fiscal Year

Yearly Average
Post-Sentenced
Detention Time

Change in Detention Time
Compared to USMS’s Calculated Savings
Derived Baseline
Using Baseline
(number of days)
($ million)

Change in Detention
Time Compared to
Previous Year’s
(number of days)

Calculated
Savings Using
Annual Change
($ million)

2011

71.8

- 1.6

$ 7.9

1.6

-($ 4.7)

2012

58.8

- 14.6

$ 53.9

-13

$ 47.9

2013

58.8

- 14.6

$ 53.3

0

$ 30

2014

53.8

- 19.6

$ 67.6

-5

$ 16.8

2015a

57.2

- 16.2

$ 39.4

3.4

-($ 8.5)

Legend: ($) = Amounts in parentheses indicate that USMS did not have costs savings in comparison.
Source: GAO analysis of USMS information | GAO-16-472.
a

Based on information provided through the third quarter of fiscal year 2015.

In addition to double counting savings in its cost estimating
methodology, USMS included savings not attributable to the
implementation of the eDesignate system. Specifically, USMS
calculated detention costs avoided for the total number of USMS’s
prisoners instead of prisoners housed in non-BOP facilities. As
discussed above, USMS derived a costs savings estimate for
eDesignate by multiplying the reduction in prisoners’ detention time by
the daily costs of housing the prisoners. However, USMS does not
incur costs for USMS prisoners housed in BOP facilities, so
calculating costs avoided for all prisoners in its savings estimate
resulted in an overestimation.
USMS officials stated that they do not think that the $222 million in
savings is overestimated. They said that USMS did not need to adjust
the baseline to reflect incremental yearly changes in detention time
and costs savings because it was estimating the costs USMS would
have incurred without the implementation of eDesignate, not the
impact of the system on prisoner processing time. OMB guidance,
however, states that benefit-cost analyses should measure the
incremental benefits and costs by omitting costs or benefits already
realized. A baseline which adjusts to capture the actual change in
average detention time would better capture incremental benefits and
could help USMS identify events that affected detention time and
more accurately estimate eDesignate’s effects and costs savings.
•

Chesapeake Detention Facility: USMS’s cost savings estimate of
$53.6 million for the Chesapeake Detention Facility includes $13.6

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million in transportation and medical costs avoided and $40 million in
housing costs avoided as a result of USMS having guaranteed use of
the Chesapeake detention facility. Though USMS conducted
sensitivity analyses for its housing cost savings estimate, our analysis
found that the estimate has limited reliability because it is not
accurate. 26
First, USMS may have overestimated the cost savings associated
with transportation and medical costs because it did not account for
the fixed costs for medical and transportation already included in its
payments for the Chesapeake Detention Facility. In particular, USMS
used the local average transportation costs for transporting USMS
prisoners and the average daily medical costs per prisoners to
estimate that it would have had to pay $13.6 million in transportation
and medical costs if such costs were not included in the agreement
with the facility. It identified the entire estimated transportation and
medical costs avoided as the savings.
However, this estimate may overstate the cost savings because
USMS’s methodology did not account for an estimate of how much of
the fixed costs it currently pays for the Chesapeake Detention Facility
are attributable to transportation and medical costs. As previously
noted, USMS pays a fixed cost for housing its prisoners at the
Chesapeake Detention Facility, which includes medical and
transportation services for USMS’s prisoners housed at the facility. If
such costs were not included in the fixed costs USMS paid for the
facility, USMS may have been able to negotiate a lower cost.
However, USMS’s methodology does not account for how the
negotiated fixed costs for the facility would have changed if medical
and transportation services were not included. Accounting for how the
fixed costs would have changed would provide a more accurate
estimate of the actual medical and transportation costs it did not have
to pay as a result of the agreement. For example, if the fixed costs
including medical and transportation USMS pays for the Chesapeake
Detention Facility are $20 million and USMS estimates that it could
have negotiated a fixed rate without medical and transportation of $18
million, then the estimate of fixed costs USMS currently pays that are
attributable to medical and transportation costs is $2 million. If this

26
A sensitivity analysis varies major assumptions in an estimate to determine how
sensitive outcomes are to changes in the assumption.

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were the case, then, after accounting for the $2 million currently
attributable to medical and transportation costs, the costs savings
would have equaled $11.6 million ($13.6 million less the $2 million)
versus the entire $13.6 million estimate of costs avoided.
Second, USMS’s housing cost savings estimate for the Chesapeake
Detention Facility is inaccurate because USMS inconsistently applied
the inflation rate in its $40 million savings estimate. Specifically,
USMS calculated savings using the difference between the cost of
operating Chesapeake and the costs of not having the guaranteed
use of the facility. To calculate the growth in costs over time for each
scenario, USMS assumed a 3 percent inflation rate, but applied the
rate inconsistently. Specifically, it applied a 3 percent inflation rate
once every three years for the change in costs to operate
Chesapeake, but applied a 3 percent inflation rate every year for the
change in housing costs if USMS did not have the guaranteed use of
the facility. As a result of this inconsistency, USMS generally
projected that the costs for operating the Chesapeake facility would
be lower when compared to the costs of housing their prisoners if they
did not have the guaranteed use of the facility, and this overestimated
costs savings achieved. Further, USMS assumed a 3 percent inflation
rate every 3 years instead of using the general inflation rate, as is
recommended by OMB guidance. 27
We found that USMS inaccurately estimated the medical and
transportation costs avoided as a result of its guaranteed use of the
Chesapeake facility because USMS did not prioritize the development
of the estimate. Specifically, officials said USMS developed its
housing estimate to show that acquiring the guaranteed use of
Chesapeake was an economically sound housing decision, and any
additional savings were secondary. As such, USMS did not focus on
the medical and transportation costs that it avoided and developed the
estimate in response to our inquiry. Additionally, USMS officials
acknowledged that they mistakenly applied an inconsistent inflation

27
OMB Circular No. A-94 states that analysts should avoid having to make an assumption
about the general rate of inflation whenever possible and when a general inflation
assumption is needed, the rate of increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) deflator
from the Administration’s economic assumptions for the period of the analysis is
recommended. GDP deflator is approximately 2 percent every year for the time period
USMS uses in its estimate.

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rate, potentially resulting in an overestimation. They noted, however,
that USMS assumed a 3 percent inflation rate instead of the general
inflation rate in its estimate because that is the average rate officials
have observed over time.
•

Improved Management of Medical Claims: We found that the $2.4
million in costs savings related to the improved management of
medical claims and costs has limited reliability because it is not
accurate or comprehensive. USMS’s reported savings is comprised of
three categories: (1) $1.4 million in savings from effectively managing
costs for prisoners receiving medical care; (2) $740,962 from denied
claims; and (3) $279,360 from medical transport costs avoided. We
found that USMS’s costs savings related to effective management of
prisoners’ medical care and denied claims may be inaccurate
because USMS used the upper bound of costs ranges and average
costs, respectively, to estimate the savings for each category. For
savings related to effective management of prisoner medical care, in
at least one quarter of its estimated savings, USMS reported a range
of cost savings rather than a single estimate. For example, USMS
estimated a range of $20,000 to $50,000 for costs avoided for a
surgery. Because USMS used the upper bound of each range to
estimate total costs avoided for the effective management of
prisoners’ care, USMS may have overestimated its savings. 28
Similarly, USMS savings for denied claims may be inaccurate
because it used average costs per approved claim instead of the
actual costs of denied claims to estimate costs avoided. Specifically,
USMS multiplied the number of denied claims by the average costs
per medical claim they had approved to determine total costs avoided.
However, we found that average costs per claim approved may not be
a good proxy for costs per denied claim. According to officials,
medical costs can vary widely according to each individual case. Such
variations in costs can affect the average costs per claim and thus
USMS’s calculated cost savings. For instance, USMS calculated that
average costs per claim in two quarters in fiscal year 2015 ranged
from $220 per claim to $503 per claim for each quarter. Applying
these two different averages to 300 denied claims, we found that

28
We estimated a difference of $123,000 between an estimate using the lower bound of
the range and an estimate using the upper bound of the range.

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there is a large difference in estimated savings—approximately
$66,000 and $150,900, respectively, or over 1.25 times difference
between the low and high calculated savings. As a result, using
average costs per approved medical claim may not be representative
of the actual costs for each claim denied and may under- or over-state
actual savings.
Additionally, a review of the documents USMS provided us shows that
USMS calculated savings for the actions that overlapped two of the
saving categories, thus potentially double counting some savings. 29
For example, USMS claimed approximately $90,000 in cost avoided
for effectively managing a prisoner medical case. However, this cost
avoidance resulted from a denied claim. As a result, this singular
action would also be counted as savings in the denied claims
category.
USMS officials noted that it would be work intensive for USMS to
calculate costs avoided for denied claims by using actual costs given
the volume of medical claims they receive and the average cost per
claim can be quickly calculated and multiplied by the number of
prisoner medical claims denied to facilitate cost savings reporting. We
recognize that calculating actual costs may be challenging; however,
USMS already uses actual costs to estimate the costs savings related
to the effective management of prisoners’ medical care. Thus, USMS
may use the same method to estimate savings for denied claims.
Further, data reliability guidance states estimates are accurate when
recorded data reflects the actual underlying information. 30 A more
accurate and comprehensive savings estimate—calculating both the
lower and upper bound of cost estimates, using actual costs for claims
denied, and ensuring that savings are not double counted—could help
USMS better determine the full impact of its action on its rising
medical care costs.

29
GAO-09-3SP. Cost estimating, including cost savings estimates, best practices states
that a comprehensive estimate ensures that cost elements are neither omitted nor double
counted.
30

GAO-09-680G.

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•

Alternatives to Pre-Trial Detention: We also found that USMS’s
cost savings estimate of approximately $375 million from the
alternatives to pre-trial detention program—for fiscal years 2010
through 2015—had limited reliability because USMS lacked adequate
documentation to support the estimates, did not validate estimates,
and reported inconsistent savings estimates. As described earlier, the
Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) administers the
alternatives to pre-trial detention program which helps to divert
defendants from detention in USMS’s custody. According to the
agreement between AOUSC and USMS, AOUSC is to provide USMS
with a report that includes the number of prisoners who otherwise
would have been detained, describes the types of services provided,
and includes the total expenditure from USMS’s allocated funds.
USMS officials reported that AOUSC had provided such reports,
which also estimated the housing costs USMS avoided as a result of
the program.
However, USMS officials stated that they have not received reports
with this information from AOUSC for fiscal years 2012 onward to
support or corroborate USMS’s reported estimate of $67 million per
year in savings for fiscal years 2012 onward. Our review of the fiscal
years 2010 and 2011 reports that included estimates of housing costs
avoided that we received from USMS found that AOUSC aggregated
some of the data to determine USMS detention costs avoided as a
result of the program, but did not specify the methodology for
aggregating the data or the assumptions used to derive different
factors in the estimate, as recommended by OMB guidance. 31As
such, we cannot determine if the method for estimating USMS cost
savings is reasonable.
Additionally, USMS officials said that USMS did not verify AOUSC’s
calculation of fiscal years 2010 and 2011 savings. USMS, however,
reported savings for those and subsequent fiscal years in its
congressional budget justifications. USMS officials told us that USMS
extrapolated AOUSC’s estimations from fiscal year 2011 to report on
more recent savings. Officials said that, generally, USMS gets a
savings of $10 for every dollar AOUSC expends from USMS-allocated

31
OMB Circular No. A-94 states that key data and results of benefits and costs should be
reported to promote independent review.

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funds for the program. However, we found that since fiscal year 2011,
AOUSC expended less than $3 million of USMS-allocated funds, but
USMS continued to report a $67 million per year cost savings, which
was estimated based on AOUSC fiscal year 2011 expenditures of
approximately $3 million. Further, USMS reported different savings for
fiscal year 2011, $44 million in fiscal year 2011 versus the $67 million
it reported in its fiscal year 2013 and 2014 congressional budget
justification, indicating that the estimates are inaccurate. It is likely that
USMS’s costs savings for the program have decreased from $67
million, given the decrease in use of allocated funds by AOUSC.
AOUSC acknowledged that, since a change in its staff in 2012, the
reports it provided to USMS did not include information such as the
number of prisoners who otherwise would have been detained, which
would have been required to estimate USMS’s cost avoided, but
instead provided detailed program expenditures to USMS for fiscal
years 2012 onward in order to seek reimbursement. Similarly, USMS
staff acknowledged that they had not sought reports from AOUSC that
would have allowed them to calculate costs avoided, and had not
verified any of AOUSC’s prior calculations. Both AOUSC and USMS
officials stated that they intend to communicate with each other to
obtain the information detailed in the agreement, and USMS officials
indicated that they plan to validate the cost savings in the future.
However, USMS officials did not provide documentation or a
timeframe in which they will do so. Further, OMB guidance states that
it is potentially valuable for agencies to verify and determine whether
anticipated benefits and costs for the program have been realized.
This verification can be used to determine necessary corrections in
the program, and to improve future estimates of benefit and costs. 32
Also, by ensuring that it has complete and validated information
necessary to estimate costs avoided, documenting its methodology,
and assuring that its estimates are consistent over time, USMS would
be better able to report reliable costs avoided for the alternatives to
detention program.
As described above, five of USMS’s costs savings estimates have limited
reliability because the estimates were not sufficiently comprehensive,

32

OMB Circular No. A-94.

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accurate, consistent, or well-documented. By developing reliable methods
for estimating and validating cost savings—such as ensuring estimates
are comprehensive, accurate, consistent, and adequately documented—
USMS would be better positioned to assess the effectiveness of its cost
savings actions and inform decision makers—including Congress—about
these efforts.

USMS Has Designed
Systems to Identify
Opportunities for
Additional Cost
Efficiencies, but
Could Improve its
Monitoring of Internal
Control
USMS has Systems to
Help Identify Opportunities
for Cost Efficiencies and
Savings

USMS has several systems it uses to help it identify cost savings
opportunities, including:
Strategic Plan. USMS’s 2012-2016 Strategic Plan helps guide the
agency in fulfilling its mission and achieving its strategic goals. One such
strategic objective is to provide for the safe, secure, humane, and costeffective containment of its prisoners, and one of the performance goals it
uses to achieve this objective is to hold detention and transportation costs
at or below inflation. According to the strategic plan, one of the ways it
seeks to meet this goal is by enabling effective and equitable allocation of
district resources for transportation expenditures. For example, according
to USMS POD officials, they have implemented a process as a result of
guidance in the strategic plan which allows them to reallocate resources
at the district level for guard and transportation costs when unexpected
costs are incurred by the districts. USMS initially allocates money each
fiscal year across the 94 USMS districts, but in addition it sets aside
separate funding to cover unexpected costs such as transporting ill
prisoners outside of facilities where they are housed for further medical
care. While USMS can anticipate that these events will occur, it cannot
foresee which districts will incur these costs. Districts’ requests for
additional funding beyond their fiscal year allocations are submitted via a
supplemental funding request that is reviewed by POD, which then grants

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the request and provides the additional funding to the district. In addition,
POD is currently developing a policy which will allow it to determine a
methodology to more effectively and equitably distribute transportation
resources across the districts. This initiative is expected to be rolled out in
October 2017, according to USMS officials.
USMS guidance to districts. USMS’s Policy Directive 9.2 establishes
how USMS districts will house prisoners in different types of facilities.
Specifically, it states that districts must first use a BOP federal facility
where there is space available, as USMS does not have to pay for these
spaces. In 2007, USMS signed a memorandum of understanding in which
BOP allocated a certain amount of bed space to USMS prisoners at more
than a dozen of its federal facilities. In fiscal year 2015, BOP housed
approximately 10,000, or 19 percent, of USMS’s prisoners in BOP
facilities.
Next, USMS districts must, according to the directive, use space available
in state and local facilities for which USMS has established IGAs and a
per diem amount to pay for each prisoner. Third, the guidance directs
districts to use private facilities. In addition to this guidance, however,
POD officials noted that they guide districts to consider private facilities
with space where USMS has a “guaranteed minimum” number of spaces
it is paying for, before the districts consider state and local facilities (the
IGAs). This is because, if USMS exceeds the guaranteed minimum in the
contract, the contractor provides a dramatically reduced per diem cost per
detainee above the guaranteed minimum contract amount. The officials
noted that fewer than 30 of USMS’s districts use private facilities, and that
private facilities account for the smallest percentage of facilities that
USMS uses to house its prisoners. Our analysis confirmed this
assessment, finding that there were only 21 districts using private
facilities from fiscal years 2010 through 2015 to house at least a half of 1
ADP during each fiscal year.
However, our analysis of USMS detention data also found that some
districts appeared to select private detention space over less costly
federal spaces, in seeming contradiction with USMS guidance. For
example, several districts that have access to one federal facility place a
large number of prisoners in other private facilities at a higher cost to their
districts. POD officials stated that based on the number of factors U.S.
Marshals must consider in placing prisoners in available bed spaces, it is
not always feasible to use the available federal detention spaces. POD
officials also told us that they provide additional guidance to U.S.
Marshals in those districts that have access to or are the home district for

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private facilities. For example, according to the officials, the U.S. Marshal
in each district must consider issues like the security risk the prisoner
poses, the prisoner’s medical condition, the need to separate defendants
on a particular case, and the need to keep prisoners close to the
courthouse where they are making their appearances. In addition, even if
USMS presents a prisoner to a BOP federal facility, BOP has the right to
refuse to accept a prisoner at one of its facilities. According to BOP, this
is only done in cases where the facility cannot accommodate a particular
prisoner due to medical or security issues. Overall, BOP officials told us
they try to accommodate USMS, even in facilities where USMS has
exceeded its allocation at a particular facility. Thus, while some districts
make placement decisions that do not comport with the policy directive as
written, these occurrences are infrequent, and are practiced by a minority
of districts that have both private and federal prison spaces available to
them, and are following additional guidance provided to them by POD in
making their determinations on where to place specific prisoners.
Scorecards. POD tracks district utilization of federal and private bed
spaces through quarterly scorecards. According to USMS officials, they
encourage districts to utilize federal and private bed space, and the
quarterly scorecard system is their way of checking on the district’s
performance in cost-efficient bed space allocation. These scorecards
reflect which private and federal facilities are being underutilized, and at
what percent or rate. The scorecard lists each federal and private facility,
the USMS allocation or number of bed spaces for each facility, and the
actual amount of ADP in that facility (USMS’s use). Scorecards are color
coded green, yellow, and red based on whether the district is meeting the
USMS allocated amount of ADP in the facility. If a facility on the score
card is under its allocation, or “in the red,” POD does an assessment of
which facilities that district is using to house prisoners. While POD
officials stated they cannot dictate to a U.S. Marshal which facility to use
for a specific prisoner, they noted that if they find, for example, that a
district is using an IGA or a higher priced facility rather than a facility with
guaranteed minimum bed spaces, then POD officials call the district to
provide coaching on utilizing allocated bed space.
In addition to monitoring utilization levels at detention facilities, USMS
also calculates a cost avoidance amount based on the amount of space it
should be using at these facilities, and the amount of space currently
being occupied by its prisoners. According to USMS officials, it performs
calculations to determine its potential cost avoidance numbers for private
and federal facilities as part of its ongoing monitoring and prisoner
reassignment efforts.

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USMS officials noted that their current monitoring and prisoner
reassignment efforts are ad hoc, but the agency is currently working to
formalize its use of the scorecards and its facility utilization review
process. USMS officials stated that they are currently working to formalize
the scorecard system and monitoring, and expect to be able to begin
monthly reviews in June 2016. 33
Internal control. We reviewed the elements of USMS’s internal control
system that are designed to specifically provide USMS with opportunities
to identify cost efficiencies and generally found that its internal control
processes align with Standards for Internal Control in the Federal
Government and the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) Circular
No. A-123, Management’s Responsibility for Internal Control, which
defines management’s responsibility for internal control in federal
agencies. 34 Internal control is an integral component of an organization’s
management that is to provide reasonable assurance that objectives are
achieved, including the efficiency of operations. We focused our review
on USMS’s internal control objective related to achieving operational
efficiencies.
Table 5 provides examples of USMS’s specific internal control processes,
organized by standard. We did not independently test USMS’s internal
controls to determine whether they mitigate all possible risks and are
operating as intended.

33

In addition to the efforts discussed in this section, USMS officials also recently
discussed with us its efforts to assess the sentencing to commitment timeline to look at
where there might be possible bottlenecks in the system. USMS told us they expect this
will help the agency reduce the amount of time that prisoners remain in USMS custody
before being sentenced to prison and BOP custody. USMS officials stated that they
expect this to also be completed in June 2016. Because this is a new effort in its early
assessment stages, GAO did not perform further assessments on USMS’s activities
related to this effort.
34

GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, GAO/AIMD-00.21.3.1
(Washington, D.C.: Nov. 1, 1999). Internal control is an integral component of an
organization’s management that provides reasonable assurance that the following
objectives are being achieved: effectiveness and efficiency of operations, reliability of
financial reporting, and compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Office of
Management and Budget, Management’s Responsibility for Internal Control, OMB Circular
No. A-123 (Dec. 21, 2004).

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Table 5: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Internal Control Processes That Are Designed To Provide Opportunities to
Identify Cost Efficiencies by Internal Control Standard
USMS’s use in identifying opportunities
for cost efficiencies

Internal Control Standard

USMS Process

Environment - Management and
employees should establish and maintain
an environment throughout the organization
that sets a positive and supportive attitude
toward internal control and conscientious
management. It provides discipline and
structure as well as the climate which
influences the quality of internal control.

Senior Assessment Team (SAT)
Internal Review and Evaluations
Office of Professional Responsibility,
Compliance Review (OPR-CR)
Internal Policy (Self-Assessment and
Compliance Review)

USMS’s SAT is responsible for overseeing
the assessment process in compliance with
OMB Circular A-123 and conducting review of
operational functions agency-wide.

Risk assessment - Internal control should
provide for an assessment of the risks the
agency faces from both external and
internal sources.

Focus on high cost areas
2013 Risk Assessment study
Risk-based reporting

USMS focused its risk assessment activities
on its high cost areas of contract
administration and human resource
administration prior to 2013. In 2013, USMS
undertook a significant risk assessment study
to improve on its risk assessment activities to
expand its risk assessments across all of its
operations.

Control activities - Control activities help
ensure that management’s directives are
carried out. The control activities should be
effective and efficient in accomplishing the
agency’s control objectives, including
achieving efficiencies.

Self-Assessment Process

USMS’s self-assessment process is designed
to test control activities in a number of areas,
including contract administration and human
resources administration. USMS is to confirm
whether its districts are performing certain
control activities through on-site district
compliance reviews, which serve to, among
other things, validate the results from
corresponding self-assessments.

Information and communication Information should be recorded and
communicated to management and others
within the entity who need it and in a form
and within a time frame that enables them
to carry out their internal control and other
responsibilities.

Self-Assessment Guide (SAG)
District and division SAG results
published to respective districts,
divisions, and staff offices
Compliance review results reported to
SAT
Compliance review training

The SAG management tool is designed to
allow USMS leadership to annually selfassess USMS performance and compliance,
and the results of the self-assessments are to
be assessed by the OPR-CR.
Districts and divisions are to annually
coordinate with OPR-CR to update SAG
questions.

Monitoring - Internal control monitoring
should assess the quality of performance
over time and ensure that the findings of
audits and other reviews are promptly
resolved.

Corrective Action Plans
Compliance Reviews

OPR-CR is to issue a Compliance Review
Final Report and provide it to management
within 30 days of the review. Components
have 60 days from issuance of the final report
to implement remediation efforts. Divisions
and Staff Offices with program oversight
responsibilities for sections of the review
should examine each final report to assess
for corrective action. Also, with regard to A123, OPR-CR is to identify, assess, and
report findings to the SAT.

Source: GAO analysis of USMS information and Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government | GAO-16-472.

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a

The Self-Assessment Guide and its accompanying electronic version (eSAG) is a USMS
management tool which enables USMS leadership to annually self-assess compliance with applicable
laws, regulations, policy and procedures; assess effectiveness of internal controls; mitigate risks; and
promote effective and efficient operations throughout the agency.

USMS Lacks a
Mechanism to Analyze
Deficiencies Identified
Annually

We found that USMS has designed an internal control system which
could help it to identify opportunities to achieve operational efficiencies,
including on-site compliance reviews where each district is assessed
every 6 to 7 years. In addition, each district is to test its internal control
over the efficiency of its operations through a standardized, annual selfassessment process. However, agency officials reported that USMS does
not have a way to aggregate or analyze the results of these selfassessments, which are the only reviews available for each district each
year.
According to USMS officials, their current process includes tools such as
Sharepoint that are not able to aggregate the self-assessment data, or
run any type of data analytics. They also stated that they completed a
business process analysis in fiscal year 2015 that may help them compile
the findings of the reviews, but they are still unable to aggregate the
results. The officials said that they recognize the need for an integrated
system that would allow them to compile the self-assessments, corrective
action plans, and compliance reviews. Officials also stated that currently,
they have four different systems in which they have to manually input
information. They stated that integrating these into one overall system
would increase productivity, accountability, and USMS’s overall
compliance rate. In addition, according to these officials, having a data
analysis capability would allow USMS to detect deficiency trends and
patterns, which could increase and enhance its reporting capabilities. For
example, USMS could report on a quarterly basis which would enable it to
more closely monitor district compliance rates.
Because USMS cannot aggregate or analyze the annual SAG selfassessment results, which it relies on for those districts not being
assessed during USMS’s district review cycle, it cannot identify whether
the same control deficiencies are occurring across districts or in the same
districts over time, hindering its ability to promptly resolve these issues or
to identify agency-wide deficiencies and develop corrective actions in key
risk areas. For example, one control activity that is to be tested regularly
is whether the district reviews purchase cardholder statements to ensure
that only authorized goods and services are purchased, and that no
purchase exceeds a set threshold. With no ability to aggregate selfassessment results to identify whether a deficiency in an area such as

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this is occurring across many districts in a given year, or across the same
district over a number of years, USMS may not be able to promptly
resolve inaccurate purchases, potentially resulting in issuing payments
that are higher or lower than they should be.
A 2012 DOJ Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit of USMS also
similarly commented on USMS’s on-site review timeline, finding that
USMS had not ensured that district and division procurement officials
were complying with federal, DOJ, and USMS policies, and that these
noncompliance problems resulted from an inability to effectively manage
and oversee those procurement activities at the district and division
level. 35 As such, the OIG recommended that USMS strengthen its
inspection and review of certain activities by shortening the length
between on-site reviews of operations in the district and division offices.
USMS officials told us that they are continuing to work on implementing
the recommendation to ensure that they are performing their on-site
reviews closer to a 3 to 4 year cycle, which is standard among other
agencies. 36 USMS has already improved its on-site compliance review
cycle from past years. Currently, officials stated that USMS reviews each
district every 6 to 7 years as compared to every 12 years in 2012, and it
increased the number of on-site reviews from 11 to 14 per year in 2012 to
18 per year now. According to USMS officials, they are on track to
perform 16 on-site reviews in fiscal year 2016, and are continuing to
increase the number of on-site reviews in response to the 2012 OIG
recommendation.
However, in the years between the on-site reviews, USMS relies on
information from the annual self-assessments for each district to identify
deficiencies and develop needed corrective actions. According to
Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, internal control
monitoring assesses the quality of performance over time and promptly

35
Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice: Audit of the United States
Marshals Service’s Procurement Activities, 2012,
https://oig.justice.gov/reports/2012/a1305.pdf.
36

In its congressional budget justification for fiscal year 2017, USMS requested $2.5
million and six additional positions to increase its professional responsibility staff in order
to more effectively manage its projected workload. USMS notes in its justification that this
funding would help it respond to the OIG’s recommendation and better align itself with
other DOJ agencies which perform more on-site reviews.

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resolves the findings of audits and other reviews. Corrective actions are a
necessary complement to control activities in order to achieve objectives.
By developing a mechanism that would allow them to aggregate and
analyze results from the annual self-assessments, USMS would be better
positioned to more consistently and comprehensively identify deficiencies
and monitor corrective actions across districts and over time that could
result in additional opportunities to achieve cost savings and efficiencies.

Conclusions

USMS provided for the care of over 50,000 federal prisoners daily at a
cost of about $1.4 billion in fiscal year 2015. In managing these funds,
USMS has taken steps to leverage and identify opportunities to achieve
cost savings and efficiencies. Such actions include the implementation of
detention management systems, the support of AOUSC’s Alternative to
pre-trial detention, and the implementation of a scorecard system to track
district use of private and federal facilities in order to identify opportunities
for cost efficiencies.
However, USMS does not fully know how much its actions have saved
because it has not developed reliable and transparent methods for
estimating costs savings. In addition, it has not established a consistent
and reliable mechanism for reviewing results of various operational
assessments at the district level, which hinders its ability to consistently
and comprehensively identify deficiencies and monitor corrective actions
across districts and over time. Establishing such mechanisms and
developing more reliable methods to estimate cost savings could help
USMS to resolve its noted deficiencies more promptly, more accurately
report savings it has achieved to the Congress, and ultimately allow it to
operate more efficiently and effectively.

Recommendations for
Executive Action

To ensure that costs savings estimates are reliable, we recommend that
the Director of the USMS direct its Prisoner Operations Division to
develop reliable methods for estimating cost savings and validating
reported savings achieved.
To enable USMS to more consistently identify deficiencies and monitor
corrective actions, we recommend that the Director of the USMS
establish a mechanism to aggregate and analyze the results of annual
district self-assessments.

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Agency Comments

We provided a draft of this report to DOJ and the Administrative Office of
the U.S. Courts (AOUSC) for review and comment. Liaisons from DOJ
and USMS responded in an email that DOJ had no formal comments on
the report, and concurred with the recommendations. The AOUSC liaison
also responded in an email that AOUSC had no written comments on the
report. The USMS liaison provided technical comments, which we
incorporated as appropriate.
We are sending copies of this report to DOJ, AOUSC, appropriate
congressional committees and members, and other interested parties. In
addition, this report is available at no charge on GAO’s website at
http://www.gao.gov.
If you or your staff have any questions, please contact Diana Maurer at
(202) 512-8777 or maurerd@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page
of this report. GAO staff that made significant contributions to this report
are listed in appendix IV.

Diana C. Maurer
Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues

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List of Committees
The Honorable Richard C. Shelby
Chairman
The Honorable Barbara Mikulski
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
The Honorable John Culberson
Chairman
The Honorable Mike Honda
Acting Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Committee on Appropriations
House of Representatives

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Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

We addressed the following questions as part of this review:
(1) What are the primary costs associated with United States Marshals
Service (USMS) prisoner operations, and what have been the trends in
spending from fiscal years 2010 through 2015?
(2) What recent actions has USMS taken to reduce its prisoner operations
costs and how much has been saved?
(3) To what extent does USMS have systems in place to identify
additional opportunities to save costs?
To identify costs and trends, we reviewed USMS’s congressional budget
justifications covering fiscal years 2010 through 2015 to identify USMSreported cost drivers. 1 We selected this time period because we believe
that 6 years is sufficient time to identify trends in prisoner operations
costs, and GAO last reported on USMS prisoner costs in fiscal year
2010. 2 We focused our review on the USMS Federal Prisoner Detention
(FPD) appropriation, which pays for about 85 percent of total prisonerrelated costs. 3 We obtained underlying data from USMS and aggregated
it at the district level. In particular, we obtained operational data for
USMS’s prisoner activities from fiscal years 2010 through 2015,

1

In support of the President’s budget request, departments submit congressional budget
justifications to the appropriate appropriations committees, typically to provide additional
information regarding the changes between the current appropriation and the amounts
requested for the next fiscal year. OMB provides general guidance to federal agencies
and ensures that budget requests are consistent with relevant statutes and presidential
objectives.

2

GAO, Office of the Federal Detention Trustee’s (OFDT) Cost Estimation Methods Reflect
Features of Best Practices, but Processes Could Be Enhanced, GAO-10-1037R
(Washington, D.C.: Sept. 30, 2010). The OFDT was the primary office responsible for
managing USMS prison costs and forecasting USMS prisoner-related budgets, among
other things. Beginning in fiscal year 2013, the OFDT was subsumed into the USMS
Prisoner Operations Division and no longer receives a separate appropriation. For the
purposes of this report, we refer to OFDT operations occurring within the timeframe of this
scope to be USMS operations.

3

This report focuses on FPD costs because it is the largest appropriation related to
prisoner-related costs, and all funds paid through the FPD are for prisoner detention
services only. The USMS salaries and expenses appropriation (S&E) pays for all USMS
district personnel conducting its multiple missions, of which prisoner security &
transportation is one mission.

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Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

specifically obtaining detention population counts per year for all prisoner
facilities by USMS district and daily detention population counts for
private and fixed rate facilities. We also obtained financial data that
pertained to housing, medical, and transportation costs, which we then
aggregated at the district level. This included the housing costs for each
facility, including per diem agreements for applicable state and locallymanaged facilities and contract rates for facilities with guaranteed
minimum terms. While USMS districts do not manage private prison
facility contracts, we prorated the cost of private prison usage by district
by determining the proportion of the total annual average daily detention
population in private facilities associated with the district and dividing the
total private facility costs by that proportion.
To determine medical costs, we obtained district-level medical services
information, medical guard services costs per district, and medical-related
transportation costs per district, which we summed to obtain district level
costs. To determine transportation costs, we obtained and summed costs
per district for in-district transportation guard support and costs for other
contract-rate guards. 4 We also obtained Justice Prisoner and Alien
Transportation System (JPATS) air and ground transportation cost
information from USMS for JPATS’s USMS prisoner operations, and
attributed ground transportation costs to the respective district
responsible for the prisoners moved. However, we were unable to
determine the costs of JPATS air support by district, as the agency does
not collect information or manage the JPATS air program to attribute such
costs by district.
We assessed the reliability of these data and, and we found some
inconsistencies with the data. This reliability assessment included
conducting checks for completeness and logical consistency, obtaining
documentation on systems end-user capabilities and data control,
interviewing data users and managers responsible for maintaining data,
and comparing data to previous USMS reported data. The
inconsistencies we identified included inconsistencies in reported costs by
facility managed by state and local facilities and calculated costs based
on the reported per diem costs and the average daily population

4

Transportation costs include transportation to courthouses or movements between
facilities. They also include final prisoner movements from USMS custody to designated
BOP custody to serve their sentences.

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Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

attributed to the facilities. Further, we identified missing or inconsistent
facility designations that led to differing costs by facility. However, we
were able to address these inconsistencies and determined that they did
not greatly impact cost data for district prisoner operations. We also found
detention population data were missing for less than five days for each
fixed-rate facility (including private facilities and two state and local fixedrate facilities). We found that the missing data did not severely impact our
calculation of costs and were able to account for the missing data in our
cost calculation. Because of these inconsistencies, USMS deobligations
in prisoner operations-related funding in later years, and differences due
to rounding, USMS-reported costs and annual average daily population
differ slightly from the calculated costs and populations in this report. We
found these differences to be minimal, affecting total costs by less than 2
percent in fiscal year 2012 and less than 1 percent in all other years
except for in fiscal year 2015, where USMS had made obligations for
costs to be incurred in fiscal year 2016. However, these obligations have
been removed from the data as they were not in the scope of the review.
The result was a difference in total costs of less than 1 percent in fiscal
year 2015. Therefore, we found the data to be reliable for the purposes of
identifying and describing the primary cost drivers and the districts’
relative prisoner operation costs from the FPD.
In addition, we interviewed USMS Prisoner Operations officials to obtain
USMS’s views on identified cost drivers and trends. We corroborated
USMS headquarters officials’ views by conducting interviews with USMS
officials in selected districts. Specifically, we conducted interviews with 3
different USMS districts—the Southern District of California, the Northern
District of Georgia, and the District of Maryland—to obtain field office
views on the costs and trends occurring over the past 6 years. We chose
these districts because of geographical disparity, size of prison
populations, and unique actions taken or ancillary missions conducted at
the district. Specifically, the Southern District of California has on average
one of the largest prison populations of any district and works with
numerous types of facilities to house prisoners. The Northern District of
Georgia has one large private facility and also serves as a transportation
center in the southeast for neighboring districts to transfer prisoners to
different facilities throughout the country. The District of Maryland is the
only district to have a state-owned facility currently participating in the
capital improvement program, a program where USMS provides funding
for improvements to state and local facility infrastructure. While the
information we obtained from our site visits is not generalizable to all
USMS districts, it provides insights into costs and trends in prisoner
operations.

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Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

To determine the recent actions USMS has taken to reduce its prisoner
operations costs, we reviewed USMS’s congressional budget
justifications and interviewed officials to compile a list of prisoner-related
actions that had monetized cost savings for fiscal years 2010 through
2015. We limited our analysis to those identified initiatives or actions that
had any monetized cost savings associated with them for fiscal years
2010 through 2015. We chose this time period to align our review of
USMS’s costs savings efforts with our review of USMS’s prisoners
operations cost trends for those 6 years. To determine the extent to which
USMS’s estimated savings are reliable, we analyzed USMS documents
and data, where available, such as documentation of the methodology
and resulting dollar figures from each initiative’s savings estimate, and
housing costs data. We compared each of USMS’s cost savings
estimates against guidance for developing and documenting reliable cost
savings estimates, including the Office of Management and Budget’s
Guidelines and Discount Rates for Benefit-Cost Analysis of Federal
Programs, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, and
GAO’s guidance for Assessing the Reliability of Computer-Processed
Data to determine the extent to which the estimates were sufficiently
comprehensive, accurate, consistent, and documented. 5 Additionally, for
each well-documented savings estimate, we assessed whether major
assumptions were reasonable by conducting or evaluating sensitivity
analyses. We also reviewed estimates to ensure that reasonable
assumptions were consistently and accurately applied. Additionally, we
used USMS’s housing data on facilities’ per diem costs per prisoner and
average daily population to determine the percentage of USMS prisoners
housed in federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) facilities for fiscal years 2010
through 2015—for which USMS does not pay—and to monetize any
potential cost savings resulting from USMS housing some of its prisoners
in BOP facilities.
To monetize potential costs savings, we developed two estimates: (1) an
estimate of USMS’s potential costs avoided by using BOP facilities for
fiscal years 2010 through 2015; and (2) an estimate of the potential cost

5

The Office of Management and Budget, Guidelines and Discount Rates for Benefit-Cost
Analysis of Federal Programs, OMB Circular No. A-94, (Washington D.C.: Oct. 29, 1992);
GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, GAO/AIMD-00.21.3.1
(Washington, D.C.: November 1999); and GAO, Assessing the Reliability of ComputerProcessed Data, GAO-09-680G (Washington, D.C.: July 1, 2009).

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Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

savings to the Department of Justice’s (DOJ)—of which both USMS and
BOP are component agencies—in fiscal year 2015 due to USMS housing
its prisoners in BOP facilities versus in potentially more costly non-federal
facilities. To estimate the costs avoided by USMS, we used BOPidentified daily per capita costs for housing prisoners to calculate USMS’s
potential costs avoided by housing its prisoners in BOP facilities from
fiscal years 2010 through 2015. To develop this cost avoidance estimate,
we assumed that USMS would pay BOP to house USMS prisoners at
BOP’s daily per capita cost. These daily per capita costs are determined
and published by BOP for each type of federal facility on an annual basis.
We classified, confirmed, and applied the respective BOP daily per capita
rates to each BOP facility in which USMS prisoners were housed. Then,
we multiplied the total number of prisoners USMS housed in these BOP
facilities by the appropriate daily per capita cost, using USMS’s data on
its average daily population for these facilities. Finally, we summed total
costs for each facility for fiscal years 2010 through 2015 to determine the
total costs avoided for each of these fiscal years.
To estimate the potential cost savings to DOJ, we used USMS’s fiscal
year 2015 prisoner population and costs data and BOP’s per capita costs
to compare the costs of housing USMS’s prisoners in BOP facilities
versus the costs to house those prisoners in private or state and local
facilities. We made the following assumptions: (1) if USMS were to pay
for housing its prisoners at BOP facilities, USMS’ rate would be the daily
per capita cost per prisoner, as published by BOP, (2) the existing private
or state and local facilities would meet the demand of housing USMS
prisoners housed in BOP facilities if USMS did not have the use of BOP
facilities, and (3) the current private or state and local facilities would
meet USMS’s housing demand at the same costs per day as they did in
fiscal year 2015. To develop the estimate, we first identified the USMS
districts that primarily used BOP facilities in fiscal year 2015. These 22
districts housed at least 2.5 percent of their total average daily population
in BOP facilities. We then determined the costs these districts would have
paid to BOP to house their prisoners, using BOP facilities’ total daily per
capita rates and the districts average daily population for each BOP
facility. We then determined the difference in costs (i.e., potential cost
savings) between these districts housing their prisoners in BOP facilities
and these districts housing those same prisoners in private or state and
local facilities. Because USMS has the potential to use either private
facilities or state and local facilities to house its prisoners, we developed
two estimates to compare with the costs of housing prisoners in BOP
facilities—one assuming prisoners were housed in private facilities, and
one assuming prisoners were housed in state and local facilities.

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Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

To determine the costs to house the prisoners in private facilities, we
identified the private facilities that each district used in fiscal year 2015,
determined the private facilities’ effective per diem costs, and derived a
weighted private facility per diem cost for each district. The weighted per
diem cost took into account USMS’s average daily population for each
facility compared to USMS’s total average daily population for private
facilities in each district. We applied weighted per diem costs for each
district to the average daily population the districts placed in BOP
facilities. We then summed the estimated total costs for using BOP
facilities and the estimated total costs of housing these prisoners in
private facilities for these districts, and compared the two to determine
cost savings, if any. We repeated the above methodology for state and
local facilities. Further, we interviewed agency officials to corroborate
initiatives we had identified as well as to identify any other unreported
cost savings actions. We also interviewed officials who estimated the
savings to explain the methodologies, clarify any discrepancies, and
provide any additional information in support of the estimates.
To determine the extent to which USMS has systems designed to identify
additional opportunities to save costs, we reviewed the processes and
tools at USMS from fiscal years 2010 through 2015 that identify,
implement, and promote cost-efficiency and savings initiatives throughout
its institutions, such as USMS’s use of score cards to determine district
utilization of private and federal facilities, and the agency’s strategic plan.
We also spoke with USMS officials to discuss how its districts implement
USMS policy directive guidance, and in what instances the districts may
deviate from the stated guidance, as well as USMS’s oversight of district
adherence to and deviation from internal policy guidance. We chose this
time period to align with our review of USMS’s prisoner operations cost
trends for those 6 years.
With respect to identifying additional opportunities to realize cost
efficiencies or reduce costs, using our financial analysis as context, we
analyzed elements of USMS’s internal control system related to the
control objective of achieving operational efficiencies and interviewed
relevant officials to assess whether USMS has designed a management
structure and processes to routinely assess its administrative and
operational activities for possible corrective action. We did not
independently test USMS’s internal controls to determine whether they
mitigate all possible risks and are operating as intended. Specifically, we
reviewed USMS’s mechanisms and processes leading to its internal
review of operational and administrative functions, including its process
for taking corrective action related to high-cost areas, such as

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Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology

procurement and human resources, and compared these characteristics
with those called for in Standards for Internal Control in the Federal
Government and in implementing the guidance in the OMB Circular No.
A-123, Management’s Responsibility for Internal Control, which defines
management’s responsibility for internal control in federal agencies. 6 We
interviewed relevant officials to discuss current actions USMS internal
control officials have taken and are taking to include processes to identify
and implement corrective actions in high cost areas, and agency
oversight of these actions.
We conducted this performance audit from March 2015 to May 2016 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and
conclusions based on our audit objectives.

6

GAO/AIMD-00.21.3.1. Internal control is an integral component of an organization’s
management that provides reasonable assurance that the following objectives are being
achieved: effectiveness and efficiency of operations, reliability of financial reporting, and
compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Office of Management and Budget,
Management’s Responsibility for Internal Control, OMB Circular No. A-123 (Washington,
D.C.: Dec. 21, 2004). This circular provides guidance to federal managers on improving
the accountability and effectiveness of federal programs and operations by establishing,
assessing, correcting, and reporting on internal control. The circular provides internal
control standards and specific requirements for conducting management’s assessment of
the effectiveness of internal control over financial reporting.

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Appendix II: United States Marshals Service
Districts Average Daily Population and Costs
by Major Cost Category, Fiscal Year 2015
Appendix II: United States Marshals Service
Districts Average Daily Population and Costs
by Major Cost Category, Fiscal Year 2015

Table 6 provides the average daily detention population (ADP) and the
respective housing, medical, and transportation costs for each district in
fiscal year 2015. Additionally, the table provides housing costs associated
with prisoners under the custody of the United States Marshals Service
(USMS) Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS).
Housing costs include costs both paid for by the districts as well as costs
for private facility usage, where USMS headquarters administers
payment. Medical costs include national managed care contract
payments for health services attributed to the districts, additional district
payments for health services, as well as payments for guard and
transportation support by district. A portion of medical payments are not
attributable to the districts and appear as a USMS headquarters cost.
Transportation costs include in-district support for services to move
prisoners from state, local, and private facilities as well from JPATS.
Further, the transportation costs associated with JPATS are for
nationwide air carrier costs that could not be attributed to the districts.
Table 6: United States Marshals Service (USMS) District Average Daily Population (ADP) and Related Costs, Fiscal Year 2015
Cost Categories
ADP

Housing

Medical

Transportation

Totala

98

$ 1,699,503

$ 361,285

$ 10,229

$ 2,071,017

Northern Alabama

130

$ 1,947,763

$ 216,403

$ 121,386

$ 2,285,552

Southern Alabama

133

$ 2,347,709

$ 148,535

$ 34,040

$ 2,530,285

Alaska

105

$ 5,413,244

$ 84,666

$ 11,731

$ 5,509,642

4,569

$ 158,535,506

$ 3,568,678

$ 313,522

$ 162,417,706

Eastern Arkansas

286

$ 6,396,862

$ 252,432

$ 28,544

$ 6,677,838

Western Arkansas

164

$ 3,075,125

$ 324,697

$ 76,687

$ 3,476,509

Central California

983

$ 9,036,864

$ 7,577,111

$ 464,903

$ 17,078,877

Eastern California

696

$ 24,760,422

$ 1,679,376

$ 141,625

$ 26,581,423

Northern California

511

$ 19,924,385

$ 112,662

$ 1,987

$ 20,039,034

Southern California

District
Middle Alabama

Arizona

2,372

$ 72,457,552

$ 8,089,775

$ 309,438

$ 80,856,765

Colorado

374

$ 4,932,977

$ 575,915

$ 198,542

$ 5,707,435

Connecticut

219

$ 7,779,628

$ 226,891

$ 233,012

$ 8,239,532

76

$ 512,955

$ 68,046

$ 8,197

$ 589,198

District of Columbiab

813

$ 11,256,669

$ 3,288,672

$ 273,460

$ 15,548,222

Middle Florida

781

$ 21,740,360

$ 1,218,421

$ 496,378

$ 23,455,158

Northern Florida

136

$ 1,838,654

$ 179,855

$ 78,352

$ 2,096,861

Southern Florida

1,171

$ 11,343,611

$ 486,346

$ 309,062

$ 12,139,019

193

$ 2,954,897

$ 228,521

$ 4,117

$ 3,187,534

Delaware

Middle Georgia

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GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

Appendix II: United States Marshals Service
Districts Average Daily Population and Costs
by Major Cost Category, Fiscal Year 2015

Cost Categories
ADP

Housing

Medical

Transportation

Totala

Northern Georgia

422

$ 14,333,248

$ 717,038

$ 791,631

$ 15,841,916

Southern Georgia

169

$ 3,270,385

$ 469,009

$ 249,102

$ 3,988,497

Hawaii

114

$ 7,996

$ 338,214

$ 357,599

$ 703,808

Idaho

146

$ 3,111,016

$ 129,631

$ 78,285

$ 3,318,932

Central Illinois

242

$ 5,389,139

$ 377,693

$ 347,452

$ 6,114,285

Northern Illinois

703

$ 6,868,302

$ 3,012,879

$ 376,834

$ 10,258,015

Southern Illinois

239

$ 5,090,485

$ 636,425

$ 246,411

$ 6,007,373

Northern Indiana

254

$ 4,190,936

$ 206,159

$ 83,228

$ 4,480,323

Southern Indiana

332

$ 6,308,377

$ 195,386

$ 25,158

$ 6,528,921

Northern Iowa

227

$ 5,220,737

$ 498,979

$ 59,756

$ 5,779,473

Southern Iowa

212

$ 6,588,665

$ 250,690

$ 796

$ 6,840,151

Kansas

420

$ 13,768,396

$ 1,307,881

$ 535,084

$ 15,611,360

Eastern Kentucky

321

$ 5,350,784

$ 1,050,084

$ 321,893

$ 6,722,762

Western Kentucky

195

$ 3,046,456

$ 243,453

$ 147,609

$ 3,437,517

Eastern Louisiana

381

$ 4,749,434

$ 419,292

$ 36,354

$ 6,722,762

Middle Louisiana

95

$ 1,386,266

$ 197,627

$ 11,500

$ 1,595,393

Western Louisiana

148

$ 2,481,775

$ 113,338

$ 56,279

$ 2,651,392

Maine

124

$ 4,740,603

$ 275,940

$ 106,345

$ 5,122,887

Maryland

500

$ 26,580,267

$ 219,286

$ 190,976

$ 26,990,529

Massachusetts

404

$ 14,481,944

$ 1,403,385

$ 396,098

$ 16,281,427

Eastern Michigan

535

$ 9,259,781

$ 833,641

$ 593,900

$ 10,687,322

Western Michigan

187

$ 4,278,008

$ 260,014

$ 181,199

$ 4,719,221

Minnesota

District

354

$ 10,277,338

$ 931,796

$ 172,098

$ 11,381,232

Northern Mississippi

94

$ 1,571,802

$ 196,801

$ 34,429

$ 1,803,031

Southern Mississippi

186

$ 2,594,674

$ 518,427

$ 95,445

$ 3,208,546

Eastern Missouri

375

$ 8,876,343

$ 538,713

$ 442,468

$ 9,857,525

Western Missouri

981

$ 28,286,704

$ 1,504,394

$ 174,858

$ 29,965,956

Montana

194

$ 5,418,216

$ 330,187

$ 33,294

$ 5,781,698

Nebraska

370

$ 11,221,708

$ 737,959

$ 62,812

$ 12,022,479

Nevada

438

$ 16,616,002

$ 1,060,147

$ 3,372,539

$ 21,048,689

New Hampshire

104

$ 3,203,252

$ 282,178

$ 127,522

$ 3,612,952

New Jersey

536

$ 13,958,628

$ 298,623

$ 242,547

$ 14,499,798

New Mexico

1,625

$ 40,350,346

$ 2,018,346

$ 926,670

$ 43,295,362

Eastern New York

933

$ 11,237,819

$ 316,244

$ 609,010

$ 12,163,073

Northern New York

265

$ 9,408,883

$ 463,497

$ 292,219

$ 10,164,598

Southern New York

1,499

$ 12,004,911

$ 2,941,164

$ 23,789

$ 14,969,864

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GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

Appendix II: United States Marshals Service
Districts Average Daily Population and Costs
by Major Cost Category, Fiscal Year 2015

Cost Categories
ADP

Housing

Medical

Transportation

Totala

Western New York

480

$ 16,968,137

$ 925,291

$ 613,870

$ 18,507,298

Eastern North Carolina

390

$ 8,994,054

$ 614,385

$ 13,597

$ 9,622,036

Middle North Carolina

258

$ 5,978,201

$ 479,937

$ 180,463

$ 6,638,600

Western North Carolina

593

$ 21,962,805

$ 494,419

$ 199,597

$ 23,656,820

North Dakota

237

$ 6,147,553

$ 547,415

$ 218,494

$ 6,913,462

Northern Ohio

313

$ 10,018,840

$ 294,024

$ 106,706

$ 10,419,570

Southern Ohio

District

353

$ 8,031,714

$ 693,611

$ 58,701

$ 8,784,026

Eastern Oklahoma

56

$ 842,099

$ 140,147

$ 10,632

$ 1,024,736

Northern Oklahoma

102

$ 2,248,068

$ 38,319

$ 10,128

$ 2,296,516

Western Oklahoma

147

$ 3,301,044

$ 1,465,857

$ 333,868

$ 5,100,769

Oregon

386

$ 7,609,179

$ 471,843

$ 42,549

$ 8,123,571

Eastern Pennsylvania

653

$ 2,592,682

$ 959,235

$ 26,500

$ 3,578,417

Middle Pennsylvania

273

$ 7,338,019

$ 331,233

$ 70,311

$ 7,739,564

Western Pennsylvania

347

$ 10,305,657

$ 188,511

$ 48,240

$ 10,542,408

82

$ 2,089,902

$ 144,073

$ 60,679

$ 2,294,653

South Carolina

429

$ 8,384,652

$ 441,800

$ 106,657

$ 8,933,108

South Dakota

268

$ 7,239,533

$ 550,850

$ 29,154

$ 7,819,537

Eastern Tennessee

612

$ 12,552,423

$ 1,029,107

$ 104,581

$ 13,686,112

Middle Tennessee

272

$ 4,943,708

$ 413,514

$ 369,452

$ 5,726,674

Western Tennessee

263

$ 7,544,332

$ 305,105

$ 59,607

$ 7,909,044

Eastern Texas

795

$ 16,634,419

$ 1,173,372

$ 219,463

$ 18,027,254

Northern Texas

923

$ 11,047,281

$ 666,912

$ 172,546

$ 11,886,738

Southern Texas

6,311

$ 143,122,797

$ 7,614,164

$ 1,584,429

$ 152,321,390

Western Texas

4,677

$ 105,140,171

$ 7,265,070

$ 1,051,233

$ 113,456,473

Utah

330

$ 7,894,706

$ 347,780

$ 233,830

$ 8,476,316

Vermont

121

$ 4,119,573

$ 156,050

$ 207,902

$ 4,483,525

Eastern Virginia

393

$ 11,013,395

$ 899,385

$ 33,942

$ 11,946,722

Western Virginia

193

$ 4,143,657

$ 406,472

$ 175,336

$ 4,725,465

Eastern Washington

232

$ 6,758,203

$ 283,801

$ 14,364

$ 7,056,369

Western Washington

289

$113,772

$ 209,478

$ 40,976

$ 364,226

Northern West Virginia

109

$ 2,634,506

$ 102,258

$ 27,691

$ 2,764,456

Southern West Virginia

117

$ 2,625,725

$ 246,140

$ 125,740

$ 2,997,605

Eastern Wisconsin

185

$ 4,975,980

$ 204,275

$ 206,295

$ 5,386,550

Western Wisconsin

56

$ 1,441,891

$ 42,588

$ 1,602

$ 1,486,081

Wyoming

94

$ 1,482,553

$ 214,778

$ 232,258

$ 1,929,590

Guam

47

$ 1,307,400

$ 3,185

$ 171,860

$ 1,482,445

Rhode Island

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GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

Appendix II: United States Marshals Service
Districts Average Daily Population and Costs
by Major Cost Category, Fiscal Year 2015

Cost Categories
District
Northern Mariana Islands
Puerto Rico
U.S. Virgin Islands
Justice Prisoner and Alien
Transportation Systemc
USMS Headquarters

e

Total for all districts and
divisions

ADP

Housing

Medical

Transportation

Totala

-

$-

$ 6,628

$-

$ 6,628

1,411

$ 9,075,737

$ 54,773

$ 95,072

$ 9,225,582

44

$ 187,016

$-

$ 8,102

$ 195,118

698

$ 19,912,909

$-

$ 29,727,000d

$ 49,639,909

N/A

$-

$ 30,474,258

$ 866,654

$ 31,340,913

51,670

$ 1,202,240,462

$ 114,977,694

$ 53,413,054

$ 1,370,631,210

Legend: N/A = Not applicable.
Source: GAO analysis of USMS cost and detention population information | GAO-16-472.

Notes: All district costs are costs attributed to the district for housing, medical, and transportation
operations, regardless of whether the districts were responsible for the bill. For instance, USMS
headquarters is responsible for paying private prison facility receipts. However, we attributed costs
based on districts’ usage of those facilities. Similarly, USMS headquarters pays for JPATS through a
reimbursable agreement. However, we attributed all ground transportation costs to the districts as
identified by USMS.
a

The calculated totals for housing, medical, and transportation costs may not always equal the total
cost because of rounding to the nearest dollar.
b

The District of Columbia is one USMS district; however, it is managed by two U.S. Marshals. One
Marshal manages the U.S. district court, and one manages the U.S. Superior court. The totals here
are from prisoners associated with both U.S. Marshals.
c

The Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS) is a division within USMS
responsible for prisoner air transportation and all transportation of more than 50 miles outside a
prisoner’s original district. As a part of its duties, JPATS assumes custody of prisoners during
transportation. ADP and housing costs associated with JPATS represent the prisoners under the
responsibility of JPATS and the associated cost for housing those prisoners while in travel status.
d

JPATS air operations costs for moving prisoners could not be broken down by district, thus all air
operations have been associated with JPATS for the purposes of this table.
e

In fiscal year 2015, USMS headquarters assumed some medical and ground transportation costs
that could not be broken out by district operations. In addition to these totals, USMS Headquarters
spent about $24 million in detention program expenditures such as headquarters personnel salaries
and information technology maintenance, among other things, that do not appear in this table.

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GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

Appendix III: Trends in United States
Marshals Service Prisoner Costs
Appendix III: Trends in United States Marshals
Service Prisoner Costs

From fiscal years 2010 through 2015, the United States Marshals Service
(USMS) expended at least $1.40 billion annually on prisoner housing,
medical care, and transportation. 1 The information that follows describes
trends in these cost areas from fiscal years 2010 through 2015.

Housing Costs

To house federal prisoners, USMS paid for bed space through
intergovernmental agreements (IGA) with state and locally owned
prisoner facilities or through direct contracts with private facilities. 2 Trends
in facility usage and costs show that while the majority of USMS prisoners
are housed in IGA facilities each year, the agency has used fewer IGA
facilities as the overall average daily population (ADP) has fallen, and the
percentage of ADP held in IGA facilities has dropped slightly over the 6year timeframe. As a result, the nominal cost for using IGA facilities has
decreased by over $80 million from fiscal year 2010 to 2015. See table 7.
Table 7: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Use of State and Local Law
Enforcement Prisoner Facilities and Costs, Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015
Number of
prison
facilities
used

Facilities
with fewer
than 5 ADP

ADP in
state and
local
facilities

Percent of
total
annual
ADP

Costa

2010

1,068

517

37,873

64

$882,305,558

2011

1,048

495

39,038

64

$938,069,312

2012

1,013

474

37,138

62

$912,046,784

2013

1,022

468

36,248

61

$903,808,825

Fiscal Year

1

The costs associated with these totals are currently appropriated through the Federal
Prisoner Detention (FPD) appropriation. However, prior to fiscal year 2013, The Office of
the Federal Detention Trustee (OFDT) was the primary office responsible for managing
USMS prison costs, and received its own appropriation. Beginning in fiscal year 2013, the
OFDT was subsumed into the USMS Prisoner Operations Division, and the responsibility
of payments for USMS prisoner costs were assumed by the FPD. For the purposes of this
report, we refer to OFDT operations occurring within the timeframe of this scope as USMS
operations.

2

In addition to direct-contract private facilities, USMS uses private facilities that are
managed through state and local governments. Costs and trends associated for these
facilities are calculated with other IGA facilities and not with the direct-contract private
facilities. Further, USMS uses federal facilities managed by the U.S. Federal Bureau of
Prisons. USMS does not pay for using these facilities and therefore are not considered
when determining housing costs.

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Appendix III: Trends in United States Marshals
Service Prisoner Costs

Number of
prison
facilities
used

Facilities
with fewer
than 5 ADP

ADP in
state and
local
facilities

Percent of
total
annual
ADP

Costa

2014

971

440

32,956

60

$825,930,819

2015

957

434

31,454

61

$797,887,339

Fiscal Year

Legend: ADP = Average daily detention population.
Source: GAO analysis of USMS per diem and detention population information | GAO-16-472.
a

Costs are calculated using USMS-provided detention populations for each year times facility per
diem costs. Due to rounding and possible adjustments made to facility costs, the calculated costs and
ADP may not match USMS-reported numbers.

USMS’s costs of using private facilities from fiscal years 2010 through
2015 generally has followed the trend of increasing and decreasing with
ADP. USMS officials stated that once the agency has developed contract
terms with guaranteed minimum bed spaces and costs, the agency has
an incentive to ensure prisoner populations in private facilities do not fall
below the guaranteed daily bed space. Otherwise, USMS would be
paying for bed space it has not filled. As a result, while ADP has dropped
in private facilities, the percentage of annual ADP in private facilities has
slightly increased. Further, nominal costs have increased by about $50
million from fiscal year 2010 to 2015. See table 8.
Table 8: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Use of Private Prisoner Facilities
and Costs, Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015
Number of
private
facilities used

ADP in private
facilities

Percent of
total annual
ADP

Costa

2010

13

10,798

18

$353,153,010

2011

14

11,673

19

$402,049,766

2012

14

11,683

19

$422,982,481

2013

15

10,995

19

$402,837,987

2014

15

11,160

20

$414,347,956

2015

15

10,246

20

$404,353,123

Fiscal Year

Legend: ADP = Annual average daily detention population.
Source: GAO analysis of USMS per diem and detention population information | GAO-16-472.
a

Costs are calculated using USMS-provided daily detention populations for each day during the time
frames in conjunction with the contract terms such as guaranteed minimum bed spaces and per diem
rates for additional bed spaces. Due to rounding and possible adjustments made to facility costs and
ADP, the calculated costs and ADP may not match USMS-reported numbers.

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Appendix III: Trends in United States Marshals
Service Prisoner Costs

Medical Costs

USMS medical costs generally comprise the second largest cost driver for
USMS prisoner costs, although medical costs were less than 10 percent
of total prisoner costs for each fiscal year from 2010 through 2015.
According to USMS officials, USMS has historically managed medical
care through the districts, though USMS began a nationally managed
program to better control costs beginning in fiscal year 2013. USMS
medical costs generally fall into three categories: (1) health care services,
such as payments to health care providers, and for supplies and
equipment; (2) USMS medical program costs including system-wide costs
such as USMS-employed practitioner review of medical records and
nationally-managed contracts; and (3) transportation and guard services
for medical care requiring outside services. 3 However, beginning in fiscal
year 2013, USMS’s Prisoner Operations Division (POD) initiated a
nationally managed care contract to pay for districts’ health services. By
fiscal year 2014, USMS was paying for a substantial portion of the
districts’ health care services through the nationwide contract. As a result,
costs shifted from districts paying for individual health services to POD
paying for most medical costs through a nationally managed contract as a
medical program expenditure. 4 However, medical guard and
transportation costs are still paid by the districts and not through a
nationally managed program. As illustrated in figure 9, while total medical
costs have grown from about $88 million to about $115 million, costs for
individual district-managed health services have decreased and
transportation and guard service costs have remained relatively the
same, increasing slightly from almost $20 million to about $22 million over
the 6-year time period.

3

In some instances, transportation and outside care were incorporated into the per diem
costs of the IGA or contract for the facility where the prisoner was detained. Because of
the nature of the costs being part of the housing agreement or contract, built-in medical
costs cannot be segregated from housing costs. As a result, a portion of reported housing
costs cover medical transportation and guard services and medical care.

4

According to USMS data, headquarters components paid a smaller share for some
health services from fiscal years 2010 through 2013, but the majority of health services
costs were through individual districts.

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Appendix III: Trends in United States Marshals
Service Prisoner Costs

Figure 9: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Medical Costs by Cost Category,
Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015

Transportation Costs

Transportation costs include all support costs related to moving prisoners
between prison facilities or for court appearances and other court ordered
movements. Such costs include the cost for moving prisoners as well as
the labor costs associated with guarding and securing prisoners during
movement if a guard is not provided by district officials. 5 Transportation
support costs generally comprise about 5 percent or less of total USMS
prisoner costs. Transportation support costs fall into two broad
categories: (1) in-district support for movements occurring within or
otherwise managed by district U.S. Marshals and (2) support provided by
the USMS Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS) for
prisoner movements of more than 50 miles outside the originating district.
JPATS is a separate division of USMS that conducts major prisoner
movements for both USMS prisoners and for BOP inmates. JPATS can
move prisoners through both ground and air services and owns and

5

Costs associated with prisoner movements for medical procedures or care are
considered medical costs and not transportation costs.

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Appendix III: Trends in United States Marshals
Service Prisoner Costs

leases a number of aircraft for its prisoner movements. District U.S.
Marshals are responsible for managing and paying for in-district
transportation support, which generally constitute prison officers from the
facilities in which prisoners are housed. 6 For JPATS support, POD has a
reimbursable agreement in place with JPATS to reimburse the division for
its transportation and labor costs. 7 As illustrated in figure 10, the majority
of transportation costs are costs associated with JPATS air travel each
year. Specifically, air travel costs comprised between 52 and 61 percent
of total transportation support costs, with in-district support comprising the
second largest category, between 30 and 38 percent of annual
transportation costs.

6

In some cases, prisoner movements may be included in the housing agreement or
contract. In those cases, there would be no additional cost beyond the housing per diem
cost for the prisoner. All transportation costs included in this category are for movements
or terms not included in the per diem or contractual housing terms of the prison facilities.

7

While JPATS is a division of USMS, it is financed through a revolving fund and bills
USMS and BOP for their respective prisoner movements. For the purposes of this report,
we focus only on JPATS support of USMS prisoners.

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Appendix III: Trends in United States Marshals
Service Prisoner Costs

Figure 10: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Transportation Costs by
Category, Fiscal Years 2010 – 2015

Prisoner Guard Support
Costs

As discussed above, USMS uses the assistance of state and local
officers and contracted private guards to supplement deputy U.S.
Marshals to, for example, facilitate prisoner movements within a district
and to provide guard services for medical procedures. U.S. Marshals
contract with IGA facilities or private facilities to move prisoners with the
facility-provided guards. In addition, districts may employ sworn officers
on an individual basis to conduct these activities. These officers are
referred to as district security officers. Further, JPATS employs state and
local officers and contract guards to augment its force when conducting
ground movements. Guard costs are captured as part of the medical cost
guard and transportation costs in figure 9, and the in-district and JPATS
support costs in figure 10. However, given that guard costs are reported
separately for medical and transportation costs above, table 9 provides a
breakout of guard costs by district for each of the three major types of
guard forces, as well as total guard costs, for fiscal year 2015.

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Appendix III: Trends in United States Marshals
Service Prisoner Costs

Table 9: United States Marshals Service (USMS) Costs for Prison Guard Support by District, Fiscal Year 2015

District Name

Guards from
Contracted Private
Facilities

Guards from State and
Local Prison Facilities

District Security
Officers

Total District
Guard Costsa

$-

$ 129,498

$ 2,624

$ 132,122

Northern Alabama

$ 9,442

$ 115,523

$ 4,212

$ 129,177

Southern Alabama

$-

$ 67,311

$-

$ 67,311

Alaska

$-

$ 1,235

$ 2,081

$ 3,316

$ 1,755,799

$ 30,588

$2

$ 1,786,389

Eastern Arkansas

$ 33,276

$ 21,679

$ 2,749

$ 57,703

Western Arkansas

$-

$ 84,462

$ 16,265

$ 100,727

Central California

$ 3,187,572

$ 442,768

$ (59)

$ 3,630,281

Eastern California

$-

$ 357,368

$-

$ 357,368

Northern California

$-

$-

$ 9,580

$ 9,580

Southern California

$ 3,200,197

$ 111,898

$ 1,914

$ 3,314,009

$ 32,092

$ 192,192

$ 18,390

$ 242,673

$-

$ 267,092

$-

$ 267,092

Middle Alabama

Arizona

Colorado
Connecticut

$37,790

$ 8,197

$-

$ 45,987

District Court of the District
of Columbia

$-

$ 294,046

$-

$ 294,046

Superior Court of the
District of Columbia

$-

$632,296

$-

$ 632,296

Middle Florida

$-

$ 637,999

$ 17,567

$ 655,566

Northern Florida

$-

$ 78,032

$ 20,423

$ 98,455

Southern Florida

$ 351,502

$ 153,420

$-

$ 504,922

$ 4,035

$ 4,435

$ 7,853

$ 16,323

Northern Georgia

$ 1,032,631

$ 35,824

$ 12,319

$ 1,080,774

Southern Georgia

$-

$ 351,515

$ 836

$ 352,351

Hawaii

$-

$-

$ 86,608

$ 86,608

Idaho

$-

$ 71,739

$ 9,072

$ 80,811

Delaware

Middle Georgia

$-

$ 421,721

$ 215

$ 421,937

$ 922,012

$ 622,623

$-

$ 1,544,635

Southern Illinois

$ 8,569

$ 355,865

$-

$ 364,434

Northern Indiana

$ 34,000

$ 83,831

$ 2,892

$ 120,723

Southern Indiana

$ 1,750

$ 29,072

$ 720

$ 31,542

Northern Iowa

$-

$ 109,852

$ 11,130

$ 120,982

Southern Iowa

$-

$ 14,571

$ 928

$ 15,499

$ 1,346,033

$ 85,527

$ 188

$ 1,431,747

$-

$ 450,590

$-

$ 450,590

Central Illinois
Northern Illinois

Kansas
Eastern Kentucky

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Appendix III: Trends in United States Marshals
Service Prisoner Costs

Guards from
Contracted Private
Facilities

Guards from State and
Local Prison Facilities

District Security
Officers

Total District
Guard Costsa

Western Kentucky

$ 40,577

$ 116,348

$-

$ 156,925

Eastern Louisiana

$ 24,734

$ 50,979

$ 240

$ 75,953

Middle Louisiana

$-

$ 35,422

$-

$ 35,422

Western Louisiana

$-

$ 68,503

$ 405

$ 68,908

Maine

$-

$ 118,840

$ 264

$ 119,104

Maryland

$-

$ 226,929

$-

$ 226,929

Massachusetts

$-

$ 791,018

$-

$ 791,018

Eastern Michigan

$-

$ 827,756

$ 57,280

$ 885,036

Western Michigan

$-

$ 177,765

$ 19,856

$ 197,621

Minnesota

$-

$ 283,622

$ 19,436

$ 303,058

District Name

Northern Mississippi

$-

$ 67,557

$ 3,744

$ 71,301

Southern Mississippi

$ 7,807

$ 138,141

$ 1,030

$ 146,978

Eastern Missouri

$ 32,138

$ 452,054

$ 6,608

$ 490,800

Western Missouri

$-

$ 233,170

$ 5,870

$ 239,040

Montana

$-

$ 37,953

$ 14,390

$ 52,343

Nebraska
Nevada

$ 155,009

$ 66,731

$ 5,265

$ 227,005

$ 3,828,849

$ 47

$ 61,717

$ 3,890,612

$-

$ 159,502

$ 6,840

$ 166,342

New Hampshire
New Jersey

$ 39,304

$ 241,684

$-

$ 280,989

New Mexico

$-

$ 1,253,286

$ 3,281

$ 1,256,567

$ 708,642

$-

$ 2,240

$ 710,882

Northern New York

$-

$ 326,771

$-

$ 326,771

Southern New York

$ 1,595,236

$-

$ 6,448

$ 1,601,684

Eastern New York

$-

$ 733,846

$ 74,309

$ 808,155

Eastern North Carolina

$ 3,456

$ 62,983

$ 7,345

$ 73,784

Middle North Carolina

$ 28,637

$ 215,224

$ 500

$ 244,361

Western North Carolina

$-

$ 246,437

$ 96.00

$ 246,533

North Dakota

$-

$ 268,115

$ 24,558

$ 292,673

Northern Ohio

$ 65,556

$ 118,216

$ 5,638

$ 189,410

Southern Ohio

$-

$ 77,082

$ 56,329

$ 133,411

Eastern Oklahoma

$-

$ 32,170

$ 6,328

$ 38,498

Western New York

Northern Oklahoma

$ 6,300

$ 3,828

$-

$ 10,128

Western Oklahoma

$-

$ 567,379

$ 200

$ 567,579

Oregon

$-

$ 114,573

$ 21,651

$ 136,224

$ 298,862

$ 12,681

$ 42

$ 311,586

$-

$ 89,706

$ 17,707

$ 107,413

Eastern Pennsylvania
Middle Pennsylvania

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Appendix III: Trends in United States Marshals
Service Prisoner Costs

District Name

Guards from
Contracted Private
Facilities

Guards from State and
Local Prison Facilities

District Security
Officers

Total District
Guard Costsa

$ 81,385

$ 45,020

$ 2,788

$ 129,193

$-

$ 48,154

$ 1,313

$ 49,467

Western Pennsylvania
Rhode Island

$-

$ 145,084

$ 5,527

$ 150,610

$ 2,514

$ 31,930

$ 19,822

$ 54,266

South Carolina
South Dakota

$-

$ 214,351

$-

$ 214,351

$ 53,886

$ 391,827

$-

$ 445,713

$ 166,012

$ 47,941

$-

$ 213,953

Eastern Tennessee
Middle Tennessee
Western Tennessee

$ 23,483

$ 305,528

$ (1)

$ 329,010

Northern Texas

$-

$ 321,966

$ 840

$ 322,806

Southern Texas

$ 1,441,332

$ 2,598,313

$ 4,851

$ 4,044,496

$ 91,084

$ 2,226,715

$-

$ 2,317,799

$-

$ 237,344

$ 9,703

$ 247,048

Vermont

$ 219,000

$ 16,241

$ (2)

$ 235,239

Eastern Virginia

$ 134,651

$ 17,076

$ 12,081

$ 163,808

Western Virginia

$-

$ 259,235

$ 2,221

$ 261,457

Eastern Texas

Western Texas
Utah

Eastern Washington

$ 57,775

$ 583

$ 41,091

$ 99,449

Western Washington

$ 112,462

$ 13,031

$ 958

$ 126,451

Northern West Virginia

$ 17,231

$-

$ 4,372

$ 21,603

Southern West Virginia

$-

$ 154,524

$ 27,691

$ 182,216

Eastern Wisconsin

$-

$ 269,205

$-

$ 269,205

Western Wisconsin

$-

$ 6,782

$ 495

$ 7,277

Wyoming

$-

$ 240,850

$ 6,236

$ 247,086

$ 20,662

$-

$ 4,998

$ 25,660

Guam
Northern Mariana Islands

$-

$-

$-

$-

Puerto Rico

$-

$ 350

$ 116,195

$ 116,545

U.S. Virgin Islands

$-

$-

$ 7,526

$ 7,526

$ 21,213,287

$22,071,135

$ 926,829

$ 44,211,250

Grand Total

Source: GAO analysis of USMS district and Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System financial information | GAO-16-472.
a

Guard costs may not add to total costs because of rounding.

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GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff
Acknowledgments
Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff
Acknowledgments

GAO Contact

Diana Maurer, (202) 512-8777 or maurerd@gao.gov

Staff
Acknowledgments

In addition to the contact named above, Jill Verret (Assistant Director),
Pedro Almoguera, Willie Commons, III, Tonnye’ Conner-White, Dominick
Dale, Kathleen Donovan, Jamarla Edwards, Eric Hauswirth, Scott
Hiromoto, Jeremy Manion, Amanda Miller, John Mingus, Caroline
Neidhold, Wade Tanner, and Michael Tropauer made key contributions to
this report.

(441284)

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GAO-16-472 Prisoner Operations

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