Rhode Island Public Defender

Our mission is to provide high quality representation to our clients, fulfilling the governmental obligation of effective assistance of counsel, fundamental fairness and due process. Our goal is to provide client-centered advice, holistic representation and zealous advocacy. Our commitment is to treat our clients with dignity, compassion and fairness.
Mary S. McElroy, Public Defender


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Public Interest Loan Forgiveness

Rhode Island Public Defender
160 Pine Street
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-3492


Federal Loan Repayment Assistance for Public Defenders and Prosecutors Under the John R. Justice Prosecutor and Defender Incentive Act

The Rhode Island Public Defender is the designated agency to award and disburse loan repayment assistance through the John R. Justice Prosecutor and Defender Incentive Act. Rhode Island has received award number 2017-RJ-BX-0001 in the amount of $32,219 to be divided among fulltime defenders and prosecutors who have outstanding qualifying federal student loans, less state audit fees. The 2017 award is approximately one-third of what Congress had appropriated in the first year. See https://www.bja.gov/ProgramDetails.aspx?Program_ID=65

Who is Eligible? Any person employed in Rhode Island as a fulltime federal or state defender or as a state or municipal prosecutor (federal prosecutors are not eligible), handling any phase of juvenile or adult criminal prosecution or defense. Employed fulltime means spending at least 30 hours per week as a payroll employee performing defense or prosecution functions, including supervision time.  Private counsel who do court appointment work are not eligible, nor are part-time solicitors or contract employees. Individuals who are in default of any outstanding federal loans are not eligible for repayment assistance, whether or not loan repayment assistance is sought for those particular loans. You must be in an eligible status, which includes “in repayment,” “in forbearance” or “in deferral,” or any other non-default status; “delinquent” is not necessarily the same as “default.”  Due to the fact grant funds to be distributed have been drastically reduced under this grant, the SAA may eliminate from award eligibility those applicants whose household income is unusually high and educational debt unusually low, given the pool of applicants.

What loans are eligible for repayment assistance? Loans eligible for assistance are limited to student loans, but include both undergraduate and graduate loans. Both direct federal loans and FFEL loans are eligible. Consolidated loans are eligible to the extent that they represent eligible direct and FFEL loans. These include Stafford loans, GradPLUS loans and Perkins loans. Parent PLUS loans are not eligible and portions of consolidation loans representing Parent PLUS loans are not eligible¹.

How will the amount of loan assistance be determined? The total available amount of loan assistance given to Rhode Island must be divided 50-50 between prosecution and defense. The loan repayment administrator has decided that all individuals who are eligible will receive some amount of assistance. Awards will range depending on (a) ability to pay as determined by household income and (b) years of previous service as a defender or prosecutor. These dual considerations meet the program’s goal of easing the financial burden of the decision to be a career defender or prosecutor. The nationwide program was funded initially by only $10 Million, instead of the original $25 Million envisioned, and the total appropriation has been dramatically reduced since that first year.  The funds are allocated between states/territories on the basis of population, with a minimum award of $30,000 and a minimum award of $10,000 for those states/territories with a population under 500,000.   If funding were sufficient, the Act would permit individuals to be awarded up to $10,000 per year for a lifetime maximum of $60,000. All the money Rhode Island receives will be awarded; no funds are being withheld for administrative services, although that is permitted by the Act.

How will the money be disbursed? Payments will be made by the State of Rhode Island directly to the servicers based on information recipients provide. Individual servicers may make different decisions as to how the payments get applied – i.e, to current interest, to principal, etc. Eligible prosecutors and defenders are encouraged to talk with their individual servicers about how these payments will be applied. The Rhode Island Public Defender as a disbursing agency will not negotiate with servicers about how payments are to be applied. Payments will be made in either a single lump-sum amount, or in monthly installments, at the election of the beneficiary. Employees hired after the final application due-date will need to wait until the next annual cycle to be considered for awards.

Condition of receiving assistance. All persons receiving repayment assistance must sign a Term of Service Agreement pledging to remain employed as a full time defender or prosecutor for a period of three years from the date of the initial award. If the recipient voluntarily terminates employment within the term of their specific Service Agreement or is involuntarily terminated for misconduct, all assistance awarded up to that point must be repaid to the federal government.  For more information on repayment obligations click Repayment FAQs. It is at this point unclear whether a voluntarily employment change to an otherwise-eligible but different job renders a person continually eligible (i.e., moving from state to federal defender office), but it likely does.

How do you apply?Interested persons must first complete a preliminary application, along with evidence of qualifications (the requisite full time employment, the fact of qualifying loans outstanding, and evidence of good standing). If that evidence is sufficient to determine the prospective recipient as eligible, a more detailed application requesting financial information and a defender / prosecutor employment history will be forwarded to the applicant. Final applications must be filed by the due date announced, accompanied by a Certificate of Agreement. Specific award amounts will be determined on the basis of the information provided in the final application.

Preliminary applications are due by December 31, 2017.

Complete application packages may be mailed or hand delivered to: The JRJ Grant Program c/o The Office of the Public Defender 160 Pine Street Providence, RI 02903


Emailed as an attachment to JRJProgram@ripd.org

More information as well as application materials is, or will soon be, available at the Rhode Island Public Defender website, www.ripd.org.

For more information, see http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/grant/10JRJFAQ.pdf

¹The language defining what loans are eligible and what are not is:

Eligible Loans::
(1) A loan made, insured, or guaranteed under part B of subchapter IV of chapter 28 of Title 20 (Federal Family Education Loan Program);
(2) A loan made under part C or D of subchapter IV of chapter 28 of Title 20 (William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan and Federal Perkins Loans);
(3) A loan made under section 1078-3 or 1087e(g) of Title 20 (Federal consolidation loans and Federal Direct Consolidation loans, respectively).

Ineligible Loans
The term student loan does not include any of the following loans:
(1) A loan made to the parents of a dependent student under section 428B of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1078-2).
(2) A Federal Direct PLUS Loan made to the parents of a dependent student.
(3) A loan made under section 428C or 455 (g) of the higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1078-3 (Federal consolidation loans) and 1087e(g) (Federal Direct Consolidation loans) to the extent that such loan was used to repay a loan described in clause (1) or (2).

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