Buncombe County is one of 20 counties and cities to receive grants to design and test innovative criminal justice reforms

Press release from Buncombe County: Asheville

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced on February 1st, 2017 that Buncombe County is one of 20 additional jurisdictions joining the Safety and Justice Challenge, a national $100 million initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. Buncombe County and the other jurisdictions will design and test innovative local justice reforms designed to safely drive down jail usage and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in their local justice systems.

Buncombe County was chosen following a highly competitive selection process that drew applications from across the country.

“Local jurisdictions are leading the way on justice reform,” said MacArthur President Julia Stasch. “Demand for reform at the local level is considerable and growing, as evidenced by the number, diversity, and creativity of the applications we received. This momentum is encouraging, particularly as the federal justice reform landscape evolves and shifts.”

Through the Challenge’s Innovation Fund, Buncombe County will receive support and expert technical assistance in designing and implementing local reforms. Buncombe County’s innovations will focus on more effective supervision of people charged with domestic violence offenses, with the goal of assisting defendants and working with victims to increase safety by adequately managing defendants in the community and reserving jail resources for those who pose the greatest risk.

Chief District Court Judge Calvin Hill supports the additional resources. Judge Hill states,
“With the financial and technical assistance provided through this grant, Pretrial Services will be able to provide additional supervision and case work for defendants charged with domestic violence related offenses.  This additional resource for managing this growing population of defendants will enable the County to better manage jail resources, provide additional support services, and improve public safety.”

Buncombe County and the other Innovation Fund jurisdictions will receive short-term support of $50,000 each, are eligible for future funding opportunities, and have access to the resources, peer learning opportunities, and expertise of the Safety and Justice Challenge Network. The Urban Institute, which is managing the Innovation Fund in partnership with the Foundation, will provide expert technical assistance to the jurisdictions as they implement their plans. Key learnings and resources emerging from the Innovation Fund will be shared with and beyond the justice reform field.

Since 2014, governmental agencies and non-profit partners in Buncombe County have implemented a Coordinated Community Response (CCR) aimed at reducing domestic and sexual violence.  Included in this response are new law enforcement protocols and community programs that focus on offenders, as well as the opening of the new Family Justice Center which provides a centralized location for victim services. As a result of the CCR, Buncombe County Detention Center, the 28th Judicial District, and Buncombe County Pretrial Services are seeing a growing number of defendants charged with domestic violence.  In fact, Buncombe County Pretrial Services has seen its domestic violence caseload double in size.  A new strategy for supervising defendants on pretrial supervision who have been charged with domestic violence offenses will be implemented through the support of the Innovation Fund. Buncombe County Pretrial Services will engage in a 12-month pilot that will include hiring field supervision coordinators to provide supervision of defendants on pretrial release.  The field supervision coordinators will have Crisis Intervention Training, and will coordinate with partners in the Family Justice Center to help ensure that those who are perpetrating harm will be adequately managed and that jail resources are reserved for those who pose the greatest risk.  In addition, the additional staff through Pretrial Services can provide support and supervision in the community to reduce the likelihood of re-offense, while also centralizing the communication between Pretrial Services and the Family Justice Center partners.

Buncombe County will continue to place an emphasis on community engagement and collaboration among local law enforcement, corrections officials, prosecutors, defenders, judges, and other stakeholders in this work to test, innovate, and drive reform.

“Leaders in Buncombe County have been working together to address domestic violence which impacts our schools, neighborhoods and workplaces,” says Julie Klipp Nicholson, Coordinator of Buncombe County’s Family Justice Center. “With this funding, Pretrial Services will have more resources available to keep victims and our community safe.”

The Innovation Fund jurisdictions expand the Challenge’s reach into new states and deepen its work across the country. They include:

  • Adams County, CO
  • Allegheny County, PA
  • City of Atlanta, GA
  • Broward County, FL
  • Buncombe County, NC
  • Campbell County, TN
  • Clark County, NV
  • Dane County, WI
  • State of Delaware
  • Deschutes County, OR
  • Durham County, NC
  • East Baton Rouge Parish, LA
  • Lake County, IL
  • Minnehaha County, SD
  • Missoula County, MT
  • Polk County, IA
  • City and County of San Francisco, CA
  • Santa Clara County, CA
  • Summit County, OH
  • Yakima County, WA

Information about the selected jurisdictions, as well as news, research, and events related to the Safety and Justice Challenge, will be published on www.SafetyandJusticeChallenge.org.

About Able Allen
Able studied political science and history at Warren Wilson College. He enjoys travel, dance, games, theater, blacksmithing and the great outdoors. Follow me @AbleLAllen

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