Buncombe County encompasses the Asheville metropolitan area located in the mountainous Western North Carolina region. The county has a long history of implementing strategies to divert and better serve individuals with behavioral health and substance abuse issues cycling through the system. Buncombe County is home to four specialty courts, seven diversion programs, and numerous interventions that address criminogenic needs and provide access to services to justice-involved people. Despite efforts to safely manage the jail population, the county’s pretrial population grew 14.9%, from 309 to 355 between 2015 and 2017.
In 2018, Buncombe County was awarded $1.75 million from the Safety and Justice Challenge to build on past efforts and address the main drivers of the local jail population. Key strategies that focus on the front-end of the local justice system include deflection at arrest and booking, diverting individuals to behavioral health and substance abuse treatment, enhancing pretrial services, and increasing efficiencies in case processing. These strategies are complemented by approaches aimed at reducing racial and ethnic disparities, improving data integration, and enhancing community engagement in the local justice system.