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Budget cuts impact ability to enforce child support payments

The warrant unit is a group of at least 20 marshals, many who come from different backgrounds and have varied experience. They are paid subcontractors who round up parents who have outstanding warrants for not paying child support. Every state has them, including Washington.

The marshal's job is very important. In one state alone, there are 4,000 outstanding child support warrants totaling $98 million. The worst part of it all is that there are children who genuinely need the money. Even though states are aware of this, budget cuts continue to happen and marshals lose some of the money they need to do their jobs as effectively as they can.

One example of how these budget cuts are affecting the marshals is that their access to unmarked cruisers has been cut significantly. In another state, they used to have access to five cruisers, but the access was recently restricted to three cars, and there are rumors circulating that it might be cut back to two. This makes the job more difficult to do.

Other aspects of policy and budget impact how well the marshals can do their job. For example, there is a newly enforced policy that says marshals cannot bring firearms or handcuffs into state courtrooms. The marshals say they often find some of the parents on their list in court for other reasons. It is very hard for them to arrest these individuals without weapons or handcuffs. They either have to convince them to come with them, or they have to ask court marshals to help them, who are usually busy.

Source: Hartford Courant, "Marshals' Squad: Bounty Hunters For Child Support Deadbeats," Helen Ubinas, Aug. 7, 2011

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