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Following an early February announcement that Buncombe County Justice Services has been selected to receive a $1.1 million grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation the Board of Commissioners voted to accept a budget amendment at their Feb. 21 regular meeting.
The infusion of additional funding, the third Buncombe County has received, will serve to grow, and support initiatives to safely reduce Buncombe County’s jail population and advance racial equity.
The grant marks a total of $4.65 million invested in Buncombe County to date as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge, a $323 million national initiative to reduce over-incarceration and eliminate racial inequities in local criminal justice systems by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.
Buncombe County was first selected to join the Safety and Justice Challenge Network in 2017 and has since used resources provided by the initiative to implement innovative, evidence-based strategies to transform Buncombe County’s justice system. These strategies include enhancing pretrial release, increasing efficiencies in case processing, advancing racial equity, increasing community engagement, and advancing community safety and violence prevention.
The grant funding has supported:
- community engagement listening sessions
- securing $2.5 million in federal funding for Community Safety and Violence Prevention
- the development and implementation of a user-friendly online court notification system
- implementation of the Racial Equity tool
- increased data integration and communication for court partners
- collaboration with the Vera Institute of Justice on research regarding the County’s women in jail population
On Feb. 8, Buncombe County was one of 11 jurisdictions selected for additional funding based on the promise and progress of work to date. This new round of funding will provide Buncombe County Justice Services and partners with continued support and expert technical assistance to sustain key strategies that address the main drivers of pretrial incarceration and racial inequities in the local justice system.
“Partnering with our community is key to rethinking criminal justice in Buncombe County,” says Justice Services Director Tiffany Iheanacho. “The additional support from the Safety and Justice Challenge will help us continue to put the voices and experiences of people most impacted in the center of conversations around reform to ensure our work is reflective of the community’s needs.”
In partnership with the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, Pisgah Legal Services, Buncombe County’s Equity and Human Rights Office, Goodwill Industries, Code for Asheville, and the community at large, Buncombe County Justice Services has developed a comprehensive plan for sustaining its strategies and initiatives over the next two years to invest in a safer, more effective, and more equitable system. These include increasing efficiencies in case processing, advancing racial equity, and increasing community engagement. Initiatives surrounding Driver’s License Restoration and Court Navigation, along with system-wide cross collaboration will continue. The Community Engagement Workgroup and the Racial Equity Workgroup will also continue with support of the Safety and Justice Challenge.
About the Safety Justice Challenge
More than seven years since its public launch, the Safety and Justice Challenge has grown into a collaborative network of 74 sites in 33 states modeling and inspiring reforms to create more fair, just and equitable local justice systems across the country. More information about the work underway in Buncombe County can be found here and here.
About the MacArthur Foundation
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. MacArthur is placing a few big bets that truly significant progress is possible on some of the world’s most pressing social challenges, including advancing global climate solutions, decreasing nuclear risk, promoting local justice reform in the U.S., and reducing corruption in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. In addition to the MacArthur Fellows Program and the Global 100 & Change competition, the Foundation continues its historic commitments to the role of journalism in a responsive democracy as well as the vitality of our headquarters city, Chicago. More information about the Foundation’s criminal justice reform work can be found at www.macfound.org/criminaljustice.