BRAZOS COUNTY, Texas — As of Friday, March 17, the Brazos County Public Defender Office is open for business.
Chief Public Defender Nathan Wood shared how the office will be of service to the community.
“We will provide representation to anybody that’s been charged with a criminal offense in Brazos County that can’t afford to hire their own private lawyer,” Wood said.
Wood says this office works to make sure the justice system is fair for everybody — regardless of their financial situation.
The office has been in the works since 2021.
“Lawyers and judges got together, went to the county judge, and the county commissioners and said 'Hey, there’s grant money available to seed and plant public defender’s office, so why don’t we plant one here,'" Wood said.
A generous $1.8 million dollar grant from the Texas Indigent Defense Commission made things possible for everyone.
“That’s money that became available because of the backlog that Brazos County has experienced following the pandemic,” Wood said.
He says the number of cases being filed in criminal courts are on the rise.
“From March 1 2020 to Aug. 2021 — just in that 18-month period where the courts were shut down due to the pandemic,” Wood said.
“There was an increase in over 10 percent of the active felony cases that were pending.”
Case Manager Debbie Batten of the Brazos County Public Defender Office says that it's her job to address the defendant’s needs.
Batten says it's part of her job to “to figure out why they committed the offense that they did, and to get them plugged into services that can help them."
“Just let the client know that you made a mistake — but it’s not the end of your life and there are things you can do to improve your life, and we want to help you do that,” Batten said.
Batten also hopes to help with education, employment, housing, food — and to even help children that may be involved in these situations.