Dallas County Public Defender’s Office leads the way in innovative criminal justice practice

The Dallas County Public Defender’s Office is the premiere and largest public defender office of its kind in the state of Texas. Under the leadership of Chief Public Defender Lynn Pride Richardson, the Public Defender’s Office has developed a variety of innovative defense and criminal justice practices.

The Dallas County Public Defender’s Office was the first public defender’s office in Texas to form a mental health division to address the specific needs of the mentally ill involved in the criminal justice system. The success of this program resulted in the genesis of mental health units and mental health public defender offices around the state. 

In the vein of progressive criminal justice innovation, the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office partnered with Lone Star Justice Alliance, City Square and the District Attorney’s Office to launch the Transformative Justice Model version of the Second Chance Community Improvement Program (SCCIP).  The Transformative Justice Model targets emerging adults 17 to 24-years-old with criminal justice involvement. 

The goal of the Transformative Justice Model is to eliminate institutional and structural barriers to success and provide a panoply of services and support to ensure the continued success of program participants. Upon successful completion of SCCIP, participants receive a dismissal and expunction of their criminal history. In Dallas County, SCCIP dedicates resources to the zip codes that represent the most socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The Dallas County Public Defender’s Office has served as the model for nearly all new public defender offices, including the Harris County Public Defender’s Office.