Thanks for your recent in-depth coverage of the Buncombe County Detention Center [“On the Inside: Waiting for Justice in the Buncombe County Jail,” Nov. 27, Xpress]. Reporter Virginia Daffron’s article was informative, and I especially appreciated how the piece afforded incarcerated people basic human dignity and agency. This kind of humanizing discourse needs to be embraced more broadly within our community if the county is to meet even its modest goals of reducing the jail population by 15% and providing more and better services for those in detention.
This is because policing and incarceration are dynamically interrelated. As Ms. Daffron’s article points out (and as the county’s plan attests), recent trends point toward support for decarceration; but such laudable goals exist uneasily alongside increasingly aggressive demands that APD increase patrols and arrests, especially in response to nonviolent drug and “quality of life” offenses like panhandling, loitering and intoxication.
As many readers will no doubt be aware, antipathy over these and related issues has been growing for some time now, particularly in rapidly gentrifying areas like West Asheville. Despite a complex mix of factors, at the heart of these debates lies a question of values: Do we seek to criminalize and punish people who are socially and economically marginalized or to engage in an ethic of care and respect toward all community members?
Ultimately, policy goals and policing culture flow from these values. In the final analysis, the dehumanizing discourse of “removing undesirables,” which has become sadly normalized and increasingly vicious as of late, is irreconcilable with achieving the county’s stated goals. Hats off to Ms. Daffron and Mountain Xpress for modeling a better path forward.
— Julie Schneyer
Volunteer, Asheville Prison Books