It’s not too often a claim comes around that spending more money will ultimately save money.
But advocacy group Florida TaxWatch is saying just that after a review of income state attorneys and public defenders receive in the state. Their findings revealed that starting pay for those positions in the state are well below the national average, and are among the lowest in the country.
Because of that, there are high turnover rates in both fields, which cause delays in the courts and far more taxpayer-funded investment to train new employees — estimated at more than $15 million a year.
“If Florida expects our criminal justice system to deliver timely and effective justice, we must wisely invest in those who are responsible for carrying it out,” said Dominic Calabro, president and chief executive of Florida TaxWatch, in a release. “Paying our assistant state attorneys and assistant public defenders closer to the rest of the nation will ensure our tax dollars are not wasted on high turnover costs and lower productivity, and that our criminal justice system is in the best hands our state can find.”
Pay shortages for state attorneys and public defenders range from $30,000 to $50,000 in the first three years of employment, which creates turnover rates that exceed 20 percent, the group said. Because the job duties are extensive and the demands difficult, it costs taxpayers more to recruit and retrain replacements than it would to just increase their salaries in the first place.
For example, if pay raises were given to increase starting salary to $50,000 for attorneys in those positions, it would only cost $5.2 million annually. If that higher pay cut turnover in half, it would actually save taxpayers $5 million, group leaders said.
Prosecutors and public defenders often incur sizable debt to complete law school, and must pass the Florida Bar examination before being eligible for appointment. Yet, their starting wages are typically around $41,700 a year, which is $20,000 less than the average starting annual salary for prosecutors and public defenders in states with comparable crime.
To read the full Florida TaxWatch report, click here.
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