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He’s Credited With Creating The Federal Witness Protection Program During The Late 1960s, Providing New Identities, Relocation, And Financial Assistance To Over 19,000 People

Artem - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

Since 1971, the federal witness protection program has provided a cloak of safety and camouflage for witnesses who are at risk after testifying against organized crime figures and other dangerous criminals.

The program is officially called the Witness Security Program. It provides 24-hour protection, basic living expenses, housing assistance, medical care, job training, and employment assistance to all witnesses.

As of 2022, the program has successfully protected and given new identities to over 19,000 witnesses and their families. But who came up with the idea of a witness protection program, and how did it start?

The creation of the program is generally credited to Gerald Shur, who was a lawyer with the U.S. Justice Department for 34 years. Born in the Bronx, New York City, he grew up with a passion for taking down organized crime.

His father was a representative of dressmakers with experience in labor negotiations with New York’s Garment District. As a result, Shur was well aware of the impact that organized crime had on the garment industry.

In 1957, he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a law degree. In 1961, he joined the Justice Department’s Organized Crime and Racketeering Section.

He developed the program in the late 1960s after recognizing the risk that witnesses put themselves under due to their cooperation with law enforcement. So, to ensure their safety, he created a system that provided new identities, financial assistance, and relocation.

According to an interview with Shur, most people who enter the witness protection program are not law-abiding citizens. He stated that 95 percent of them are criminals or doing business with criminals.

The program also requires witnesses to cut off contact with their families in order to keep them safe. Witnesses can leave the program and return to their former identities at any time, but they face the threat of being killed.

Artem – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

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