Rhode Island Public Defender
160 Pine Street
Providence, RI 02903
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 an award of $52,229 to be divided among fulltime defenders and prosecutors who have outstanding qualifying federal student loans. The 2013-2014 award is approximately half of what Congress had appropriated in the first year. See http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/BJA/grant/johnrjustice.html
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.”
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 eligible.¹
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 are likely to range up to $2,000, 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 “pot” is allocated between states on the basis of population, with $50,000 the minimum award. 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.
Condition of receiving assistance. All persons receiving repayment assistance must sign a Certification of Agreement pledging to remain employed as a full time defender or prosecutor for a period of three years from the date of the award. If the recipient voluntarily terminates employment within the three year period or is involuntarily terminated for misconduct, all assistance awarded up to that point must be repaid to the federal government. 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, 2013.
Application material may be faxed with a cover sheet to:
Mailed to:JRJ Program, c/o RIPD, 160 Pine Street, Providence, Rhode Island 02903
Emailed as an attachment to JRJProgram@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:
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