HAF Commends Texas for Funding Harris County Public Defender Office

Houston, TX (August 27, 2010) - The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) commended the State of Texas for providing $4.1 million to create a pilot version of a public defender office in Harris County, which will begin operations early next year. During its pilot phase the County will use the new public defender office as well as the current judge appointed attorney system to handle indigent criminal cases. Houston is the seat of Harris County, the fourth largest city in the United States and the largest city without a public defender office as of yet.

HAF  joined a coalition of interfaith leaders in a letter to the Harris County Commissioners Court in support of better legal defense for the less fortunate citizens of Harris County. The interfaith coalition was started by Rev. Bill Lawson of Houston Ministers Against Crime.

"The public defender office will be a blessing to the indigent citizens of Harris County who cannot afford adequate legal representation if charged with a crime," said Rishi Bhutada, HAF Executive Council member who signed onto the letter. "Adequate defense is a Constitutional right that cannot be ignored. We hope that this action will lead to a better justice system for the citizens of Harris County."
 
According to projections in the Houston Chronicle given by Sylvia Garcia, Precinct 2 Commissioner of Harris County, the office will reduce tax dollars spent on jail costs and by implementing alternatives to jail sentences including drug rehabilitation. It is also expected to reduce a jail population so large that over 1,500 inmates are sent to other counties and Louisiana.

"Initiating the public defender office is a good start, but there is still more work to be done,” said Suhag Shukla, Esq., HAF’s Legal Counsel and Managing Director. “The office should be able to handle all criminal cases of any degree and classification for indigent citizens. Then only will the Public Defender be of full service to the residents of Harris County.”