Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $109,972)
The purpose of the John R. Justice Formula Grant Program (JRJ or JRJ Program) that the South Carolina Commission on Prosecution Coordination (SCCPC) administers through this grant award is to assist South Carolina (SC) in recruiting and retaining attorneys as local, state, and federal public defenders (PD) and federal and state prosecutors, and to enhance the efficacy of SC’s criminal justice system.
Law school graduates currently graduate with immense student loan debt. This student loan debt burden makes it very difficult for PD and prosecutor offices to attract and retain talented law school graduates and SC attorneys, because the most public defender and prosecutor salaries cannot compete with private sector law firm salaries. By helping pay down student loan debt, the JRJ Program administered by the SCCPC incentivizes SC lawyers to apply for prosecutor and PD positions in SC, and to stay in those positions for the three-year commitment and beyond. In turn, the criminal justice system is enhanced and more efficient, and turnover is reduced as seasoned attorneys remain in their positions, sharing knowledge with new prosecutors and PDs.
SC has approximately 400 prosecutors and 270 PDs. The SCCPC’s primary activities as administering body include outreach to eligible applicants, issuance of the application, application receipt and review, eligible recipient selection, completion of Special Conditions, award distribution, and annual review for program improvement. The SCCPC issues the application through its website, SC Bar announcements, and directly emails. Applicants apply directly to the SCCPC, the SCCPC reviews applications to determine eligible applicants and recipients, basing these decisions on U.S. Department of Justice statutory and programmatic criteria and guiding statutory authority. Then, the SCCPC notifies award recipients, receives their award acceptance, and proceeds with clearing Special Conditions and readying funds for drawdown and issuance of award payments directly to identified loan servicers of the award recipients. Applications ask applicants whether the JRJ Program incentivized them to become a prosecutor or PD, or to remain in the profession. The expected outcome of the grant award is that the intended beneficiaries- local, state, and federal PDs, and federal and state prosecutors serving in the service area which is the entire State of SC- will reduce their student loan debt and remain in their respective positions, thereby reducing turnover and broadening the institutional knowledge in the prosecutor and PD offices, thus enhancing the efficacy of the criminal justice system in SC.