The John R. Justice (JRJ) Program was codified at 42 U.S.C. 3797cc-21, and named for the late John Reid Justice of South Carolina, to encourage qualified attorneys to choose careers as prosecutors and public defenders and to continue in that service. The criminal justice system faces a challenge of retaining qualified prosecutors and public defenders who serve everyday to ensure that our communities are protected, the rule of law is upheld, and the rights of citizenry are safeguarded. Student loan debt is consistently cited as the overwhelming reason why attorneys decline or leave positions as prosecutors and public defenders. The vast majority of law students borrow to finance their legal education, but public defender and prosecutor salaries have failed to keep pace with the escalating cost of education.
The JRJ Program provides loan repayment assistance for local, state, and federal public defenders and local and state prosecutors who commit to continued employment as public defenders and prosecutors for at least three (3) years. An attorney must not be in default on repayment of any federal student loans. State agencies administering the JRJ Program must ensure that funding for local repayment is allocated equally between prosecutors and public defenders.
The JRJ Program is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, BJA, and the California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) is the elected State Administering Agency of these grant funds.
This program began January 1, 2011.