Justice Services to partner with multiple agencies for public safety initiative

Press release from Buncombe County: 

An initiative focused on improving safety and addressing violence in Buncombe County is a step closer to reality. Following a competitive search, Buncombe County is excited to announce the following organizations will play a critical role in our community safety initiatives: the SPARC Foundation in coordination with Umoja Health, Wellness and Justice Collective, My Daddy Taught Me That, and the Racial Justice Coalition. “I am excited to partner with these crucial organizations on a multi-agency approach to addressing community violence,” says Justice Services Director Tiffany Iheanacho. “I am hopeful that we will continue to both work with our community, and partner with organizations to ensure all Buncombe County residents live in a safe and trauma-free environment. This is one of many steps to holistically supporting our Community.”

SPARC’s mission is to ignite connections to education, employment, and mentorship to strengthen the well-being and personal freedom of people and families in need. The new initiative proposes identifying one to two communities experiencing the highest rates of gun violence where comprehensive services would be provided that are aimed at healing, support, practical resources, and reduction in violence. A multi-disciplinary team will be deployed to those communities on a daily basis, including a trauma-informed specialist from Umoja; a Community Health Worker from SPARC; and a youth mentor from My Daddy Taught Me That.

Additionally, this team will develop goals in collaboration with those communities, and work to put strategies into place to decrease violence and increase community healing. SPARC will also contract with the Racial Justice Coalition to conduct further research and gather community input in order to develop a program in Asheville to provide outreach and mentoring to young adults most at risk of engaging in violence.

SPARC, My Daddy Taught Me That, Umoja, and the Racial Justice Coalition have come together around this critical issue agreeing that it is important now, more than ever before, to provide healing and empowerment for our youth, our communities, and the ones most impacted by gun violence. Group leaders issued a joint statement ahead of the collaboration stating, “This group of partners is eager, passionate, and ready to provide services in collaboration with the county in a way that will offer meaningful change. A change that will positively create balance, peace, and reduced violence moving forward.”

The Safety and Justice Challenge Community Safety Initiative Review Committee

The Safety and Justice Challenge Community Safety Initiative Review Committee consisted of members from the Safety and Justice Challenge Racial Equity and Community Engagement Workgroups. The committee reviewed proposals using an objective scoring guide, and held virtual conversations with each of the applying organizations. After this review process and discussion, the Review Team decided to award the contract for leadership of the initiative to The SPARC Foundation in coordination with Umoja Health, Wellness and Justice Collective, My Daddy Taught Me That, and the Racial Justice Coalition. Contract negotiations with SPARC are in the initial stages.

Justice Services is allocating funding for this initiative from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge Grant. The Safety and Justice Challenge supports local leaders who are addressing the misuse and overuse of jails. Jurisdictions participating in the Safety and Justice Challenge are reforming local justice systems by identifying key drivers of incarceration and racial disparities locally, engaging diverse groups of stakeholders and community members, and working to implement solutions. This initiative is in alignment with the 2025 Strategic Plan and the recent Justice Resource Advisory Council proclamation declaring racism as a public safety emergency.

Find additional background information here. For questions please contact Tiffany Iheanacho, Justice Services Department at (828) 250-4089 or tiffany.iheanacho@buncombecounty.org.

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