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Letters to the editor: January 2018
Tuesday, 02 January 2018 11:26

New women’s jail facility opposed; options touted

I am writing to express that I stand strongly against the planned construction of a new women’s jail facility in Buncombe county.

After the recent death of inmate Michelle Smiley due to negligence of Buncombe County Detention Center staffers, and looking at evidence of systemic inequity faced by inmates, this $45 million prison facility should not be built at all, especially since there are concrete alternatives.

It must me known that 70 percent of our jail population is low-level, nonviolent offenders, and an average of 51 of the county’s inmates receive treatment for mental illness daily, according to commissioner Stone’s report.

Eight hundred county inmates were monitored for substance abuse withdrawal, last year. Nationally, 95 percent of women who have been incarcerated have a trauma history.

Furthermore, African-American folks of age 16 and over comprise 28.1 percent of the Buncombe County inmate population, although they represent only 5.6 percent of the county’s population. That’s an overrepresentation of times-5! In 2015, the average monthly earnings 20.8 percent lower for black workers in Buncombe County compared to white workers.

There are systemic barriers that keep certain folks from accessing stability, health and economic opportunity, yet Buncombe county would rather incarcerate those people than invest in working towards equity.

Alternatives exist! On Feb. 21, 2017, at a Board of Commissioners meeting, the Buncombe County Justice Resource Center proposed an in-depth initiative that would invest $500,000 in at-risk, or underserved, communities.

One goal was of “leveraging best practices to reduce the jail population, increase system efficiency and promote safety & wellness.” The plan will invest in neighborhoods, communities and businesses in order to build pipelines from schools to economic opportunity.

Although commissioners unanimously approved this plan (called the Isaac Coleman Community Investment Program), it doesn’t mean that the women’s jail won’t be built.

Buncombe County citizens are going to have to loudly speak up against its construction. While people like Sheriff Van Duncan will continue to create a climate of emergency that portrays the new facility as an urgent necessity, we, the people of Buncombe County, will see through this tactic.

We will recognize that the criminalization of already marginalized people perpetuates injustice, especially towards African-American women in Buncombe County. We will not stand for it, and will urge our representatives to endorse community investment programs instead.


Don’t let right wing prevail with its politics of division

President Trump and the Republican Party seem to have forgotten that the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution begins “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union.” 

They seem to prefer the politics of division, of class warfare, of racial acrimony and religious intolerance, of political dirty tricks to undermine democracy and bring power and wealth to themselves and the already rich and powerful. 

Trump and fellow Republicans are behaving like this is a third-world country where the powerful do and get whatever they want and if democratic process is in the way, then undermine the democratic process. 

All these Bible and Constitution thumping right-wingers have missed the point of both documents entirely. We are here to honor and love and include each other both in our daily individual lives and in our national purpose.

Remind these politicians of this every chance you get. Do not let them get away with their divisive language, practices or laws. 

Their practices of gerrymandering, voter suppression, of major legislation without debate or inclusion of Democrats, of science denial, of wrecking regulatory agencies, of lying and slandering those that investigate or oppose them smacks of authoritarianism, not democracy.


Support sought for exhibit fighting DHHS’ censorship

On Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, beginning Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, The CDC 7 Photo Project opens at The Block Off Biltmore, and other locations around Asheville, focusing on the seven words that the Department of Health and Human Services has recently instructed the Center for Disease Control to avoid using.

“Vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based” make up the series of portraits highlighting subjects affected by the silencing of these words and offering each subject an intimate opportunity to give voice to this frightening Orwellian-style of censorship.  

Encouraging action, the exhibit pairs the images with local nonprofits working to preserve and protect our basic rights to free speech, reproductive health, equality for all, academic freedom and more. 

For information, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or find us on facebook at More Than A Hashtag Project.

Give voice to change — please get involved!

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