St. Louis antigang prosecutor Chris Hinckley works four jobs to make ends meet while he tries to pay $1,200 a month on $130,000 in student loans, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Like many prosecutors and public defenders, Hinckley struggles to keep up with skyrocketing tuition bills while his salary stagnates. “This is nationwide,” said St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch. He heads the National District Attorneys Association, which supports tax credits or forgiving loan repayments for as much as $6,000 a year, up to $40,000.
“We don’t have trouble getting them in the first place,” McCulloch said, referring to the prosecutors. “We have trouble hanging on to them, particularly by the time they become good prosecutors.” Said chief St. Louis prosecutor Jennifer Joyce: “It’s killing me. As a result, I can’t keep good people here.” Public defenders face the same hurdles, St. Louis District Defender Eric Affholter said Washington University graduates he interviewed recently had an average debt in the six figures. “If you live at home and have absolutely zero life,” it’s possible to pay off those loans on a starting salary of about $33,000, he said said. If the trend continues, Joyce said, mounting debt will drive even more prosecutors out of her office and into the private sector. “We’ll have a handful of people with over 15 years’ experience and most of the people with less than two,” she said. Her goal is not to pay her prosecutors well, but just to make the job economically “doable.”