$1.75 million for Buncombe County criminal justice reform

Downtown Asheville | Photo by @matty.media

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

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 516.1a 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.