Buncombe County just got a major boost – to the tune of $1.75 million. The funds, awarded by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, will go to rethinking the local criminal justice system, reducing the jail population, and addressing + eliminating racial inequalities. The award is part of the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC), a nationwide initiative supported by the foundation to reduce over-incarceration and advance racial equity.
Buncombe County joined the SJC in 2017 and has received $3.55 million total in grants from the foundation. Our county was one of 15 jurisdictions to be awarded in this latest round of funding – based on “the promise and progress of work to date.” That work has included –
- Enhancing pretrial services
- Diverting to behavioral health and substance abuse treatment
- Improving case processing
- Supporting community engagement
- Advancing racial equity, and
- Launching a community safety + violence prevention initiative, created in collaboration with the SPARC Foundation, Umoja Health, Wellness and Justice Collective, My Daddy Taught Me That + the Racial Justice Coalition
One of Buncombe County’s top priorities at the outset of the initiative was to reduce the average daily jail population by 15% over two years. Currently, the year-to-date average daily population is 380.4. Last year, it was 516.1 – a decrease of 26.3%. DYK: Buncombe County also worked to lower the jail population in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Here’s what to know about the SJC –
- It’s a collaborative effort of 51 jurisdictions in 32 states focused on more fair, just + equitable local justice systems in the US.
- Key areas of focus include addressing disproportionate numbers of jailed Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people, reducing the use of jails overall, addressing untreated mental health + substance abuse disorders, breaking the cycle of homelessness + jail incarceration, and providing assistance and support to participating jurisdictions.