Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $113,416)
State of New Jersey
Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA)
FY 2022 John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program (JRJSLRP)
One critical challenge facing New Jersey’s criminal justice system today is the retention of qualified prosecutors and public defenders. The Department of Law and Public Safety employs 741 prosecutors as of January 2021, from all 21 of New Jersey’s counties and 136 prosecutors from the Department of Criminal Justice, wherein 2010 employed a total of 938 prosecutors. The Office of the Public Defender currently employs 609 public defenders as of May 2022, wherein 2010 employed a total of 527. The following statement of information was provided by the OPD. “Please note that you should not be misled into thinking that the increase of 82 (609-527) criminal justice Staff attorneys resulted as a benefit derived from the JRJSLRP Grant program participation; rather, this increase appears to result from an overall Full Time Equivalent (FTE) increase.
Both offices consistently find it difficult to attract and retain talented attorneys. Qualified attorneys who would be interested in public interest law often forego these careers because of the overwhelming student debt burden assumed during their education. Loan Redemption/Repayment programs such as the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program are successful in attracting and retaining capable attorneys to careers that they might otherwise not consider.
Our intent is to work in conjunction with the prosecutors and public defenders offices in order to conduct outreach to inform their applicants that this redemption/repayment program is available. The application will be available on HESAA.org and our social media platforms, along with contact information for any questions. This project service area affects the entire State of New Jersey and all selected Beneficiaries will benefit from the proposed project.
Using a debt to income ratio to measure ability to repay will result in identifying attorneys at greater risk of either leaving or foregoing careers in the public sector. Available funds will be evenly divided between prosecutors and public defenders while giving priority consideration to previous grant award recipients when applicable. We will process the Performance Measure Reports quarterly as required.
Improved recruitment and retention of qualified attorneys interested in making public interest law their career is the expected outcome, along with helping them reduce their student loan obligations.