Independent Oversight of the Buncombe County Jail
Independent Oversight of the Buncombe County Jail
Why this petition matters
This petition was created to encourage elected officials in Buncombe County to implement independent oversight of the Buncombe County Jail.
My awareness of this need is, in part, a product of my experiences in a social work field placement with the Office of the Public Defender for Buncombe County.
Harmful conditions, that are out of compliance with North Carolina’s administrative codes and general statutes, are impacting detainees incarcerated in the jail.
The Public Defender’s Office can’t take on civil lawsuits, can’t advocate for improvements in the jail without risking retaliation, and doesn’t receive funding meant for monitoring of jail conditions. The Chairman of the Buncombe County Commissioners has told me that the Commissioners have no role in oversight of the jail, and typically are uninvolved in its operations in the absence of notable public concern.
The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, which is responsible for oversight and operations at the jail, refuses to acknowledge or address these conditions.
The NCDHSR’s Jails and Detention Unit is responsible for conducting semiannual inspections of the jail to monitor for compliance. State inspectors with that unit only identified noncompliance after my submission of two formal grievances. In addition, the 4/1/22 inspection report provided by North Carolina’s Chief Jail Inspector, despite its finding of deficiencies, contains significant omissions and failed to identify the majority of the noncompliant conditions present within the jail.
Disability Rights NC is the federally designated protection and advocacy agency for North Carolina, and reports that this regulatory system results in safety violations that are allowed to go uncorrected for months or years, while some jails repeatedly continue to fail inspections.
fixjail.org details these circumstances in depth, offers written communications between elected or appointed officials and myself, provides access to contracts obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, describes the research of experts in the field of correctional oversight, and contains links to relevant resources and contacts.
The inhumane and illegal conditions in the jail are harmful, widespread, mostly impacting detainees who are presumed to be innocent, often effecting detainees accused only of nonviolent crimes, and regularly impacting individuals incarcerated exclusively for their failure to pay child support.
The only sustainable method of protecting the jail's residents and employees is the creation of a jail oversight board completely independent of the Sheriff’s Office.
As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
Thank you for reading, and I hope you’ll join me in advocating for an independent jail oversight board in Buncombe County, that meets all of the ABA's 2008 Key Requirements for the monitoring of detention facilities.
Action Steps (listed from least to most time consuming):
1. Sign this petition (please remember to add your email address when you sign, if you are comfortable doing so)
2. Share this petition with your friends and family, and on social media (if possible, please consider posting on your social media accounts once per day for the next seven days)
3. Copy this template into an email, sign your name, and send it to the Buncombe County Commissioners, Asheville’s Mayor and City Council, and North Carolina’s State Senators/Representatives (each contact link contains a list of emails, so you won’t need to do any searching)
4. Share this flier with local businesses and nonprofits, and/or post it around town
5. Read the full presentation available on fixjail.org, and then write your own message to elected officials based on your unique perspective and concerns (you may also choose to call the Buncombe County Commissioners)
6. Brainstorm further actions (please specifically consider what organizations may publicly support the call for independent oversight, I am happy to contact those organizations myself if you share their details with me)
1. Allow me to list your organization/business as a supporter of an independent jail oversight board that follows all of the ABA’s 2008 Recommendations (this would be a huge support)
2. Forward this petition to your various email lists, including those for other organizations/businesses
3. Make a public statement on social media, that states why your organization/business supports independent oversight of the jail, and encourages followers/friends to sign this petition
4. Write a letter that describes why your specific organization/business supports the call for independent oversight (please release it to your supporters, send it to elected officials (contact information is listed above and on page 43 of fixjail.org), and forward it to me if possible)
5. Consider taking a more central role in this effort
(All of these recommendations are also applicable to elected/appointed officials)
Recent and relevant publications:
- Julie MayfieldState Senator
- Brian TurnerState Representative
- Brownie NewmanBuncombe County Commission - Chairman
- Caleb RudowState Representative
- Amanda EdwardsBuncombe County Commission - Vice Chair