Rights & Liberties

Marshals’ Lawlessness

The Marshals Service has failed to make sure its detainees are held in safe conditions—even after hundreds of people have died on its watch.
Brandon Thibodeaux
The Garcia family takes shade beneath a tree as Sadrac and his brother Juan prepare to grill a goat dinner at their home in Midland, TX.

As he waited to be sentenced, Garcia-Wislar became one of about 60,000 people detained each day by the U.S. Marshals Service, an arm of the Department of Justice responsible for holding people charged with federal crimes until they're sentenced or set free. But the Marshals don't operate their own detention centers. Instead, they have agreements to pay more than 1,000 local jails around the country to hold detainees for them.

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Garcia-Wislar was placed in a county jail in West Texas. A few months into his stay, he told the nurse he was having intense pain in his back and shoulder, and was having a hard time breathing.

  • Inside the US Marshals’ Secretive, Deadly Detention Empire

    Read Seth Freed-Wessler’s full investigation, published in partnership with Mother Jones.

Over the next few days, Garcia-Wislar's pain became unbearable, but the jail stalled on getting him serious medical care. By the time he was sent to the hospital, Garcia-Wislar could barely hold his body up. He died three days later of illnesses doctors say could likely have been treated if not for the delays in care.

In a yearlong investigation with Mother Jones and Type Investigations, Latino USA brings you a first-ever look into the sprawling detention system run by the U.S. Marshals. The agency's detention population has ballooned since the Trump Administration started criminally prosecuting nearly everyone caught crossing the border without papers. But the Marshals Service has repeatedly failed to make sure its detainees are held in safe conditions—even after hundreds of people have died on its watch.

About the reporter

Seth Freed Wessler

Seth Freed Wessler

Seth Freed Wessler is an independent investigative reporter and a fellow at Type Investigations.

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