Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $95,554)
A serious challenge facing Missouri's criminal justice system is the retention of dedicated and qualified prosecutors and public defenders. Many Prosecutors and public defenders find it difficult to enter into or remain in those positions because of the pressure of student loan repayment demands. Shortages of qualified candidates willing to accept the lower salaries available in these public sector positions are creating excessive caseloads which can affect public safety, the administration of justice and the rights of individuals involved in the system.
Missouri plans to administer the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program to assist repayments of student loan debt for state and local prosecutors, and state and federal public defenders who commit to maintain their employment in those positions for a minimum of three years. The targeted sub-awardees are attorneys in the current employment of the various prosecuting attorneys and city prosecutors offices, and the offices of both the state and federal public defender systems. The funds will be divided equally between prosecutors and defenders, and will be distributed based on "the least ability to repay", along with other criteria such as the debt size, length of service in the public criminal justice sector. Top consideration will be given to applicants with the least ability to pay and those who have received previous awards and who have fewer than three years remaining on their JRJSLRP Service Agreement. MOPS has established a partnership with the Missouri State Public Defender to screen applications, with assistance from representatives of the Attorney General and D with assistance from the Federal PD's will review and select the Public Defender sub-awardees. These agencies have worked collaboratively on the program in the past.
Although the numbers of prosecutors and defenders in the state have steadily increased over the last five years, the number of applicants for JRJSLRP sub-awards has declined, Based on informal surveys, this has been due to the limited amount granted to sub-awardees being insufficient to allow the service commitment to remain in these positions. Over the previous 4 years, There have been an average of 25 awards made. With an increase in funds, it is expected that an increased number of awards may be made and larger awards granted, and those awards having a significantly greater impact on the sub-awardees' ability to remain in the criminal justice arena, thereby insuring that dedicated and experienced practitioners will continue to be available to prosecute and defend in Missouri.