On Friday, July 10, 2020, the Buncombe County Justice Resource Advisory Council (JRAC) passed a proclamation declaring racism as a public safety emergency and outlining action steps the JRAC will take to advance racial equity and justice in Buncombe County.
The JRAC’s Racial Equity Workgroup has spent the last year working to engage the justice community in a thoughtful process of educating stakeholders about structural racism and racial equity, listening openly to citizens in our community most directly impacted by the justice system, and gathering data that demonstrates significant inequitable outcomes for those in our local jail. “The Racial Equity Workgroup appreciates the leadership of the JRAC in recognizing and addressing systemic racism and its impact on how individuals, both those justice involved, and victims of crime experience the system,” says Yolanda Fair, Assistant Public Defender and Racial Equity Workgroup Lead. “Recognizing this and declaring this a public safety emergency enables our workgroup and the community to partner and develop meaningful actions that make the criminal justice system accessible and equitable for people of color and our community as a whole.”
In 2019, Black American residents of Buncombe County made up 6.3 percent of the population, 25 percent of the jail population, and 69 percent of gun violence victims. Institutional and systemic racism in housing, education, economic, health, and criminal justice policies and practices have caused deep disparities, harm, and mistrust. JRAC has identified reducing these racial disparities as a critical priority and essential to ensuring a fair and equitable justice system for all. “The JRAC membership is composed of leaders from various agencies and governing bodies throughout Buncombe County, included but not limited to the criminal justice system, each holding critical decision-making roles in our organizations,” states DK Wesley, Assistant County Manager and JRAC Chair. “Through this action we acknowledge a need to address structural racism to reduce the disparities that we see in the criminal justice system. Accordingly, we are committed to examining system-wide policies and practices through a racial equity lens and engaging the community to realize positive changes.”
JRAC has taken this action in consideration of North Carolina Executive Order 145 (June 9, 2020) that proclaims a fair and equitable criminal justice system, free from racism and bias, is necessary to maintain the safety and well-being of the state of North Carolina.
Please see the attached proclamation for the full text.
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