New Substance Abuse Treatment Center for Female Probationers

A longstanding lament of the corrections community in North Carolina has been the lack of a residential substance abuse treatment center for female probationers and parolees. In other words, there is no DART-Cherry for women. (DART stands for Drug Alcohol Recovery Treatment.) DART-Cherry, for those who may not know, is a 300-bed facility in Goldsboro that offers chemical dependency treatment services for probationers and for certain parolees upon their release from prison. There are two program tracks at DART-Cherry, a 28-day program and a 90-day program. A third of the beds at the facility are dedicated to the 28-day program, which is geared primarily toward impaired driving offenders. The remaining 200 beds are devoted to the 90-day program which, for Structured Sentencing purposes, is a “residential program” under G.S. 15A-1340.11(8). That means it may only be ordered as a probation condition at initial sentencing for those sentenced to intermediate punishment. It may also be added later for community-sentenced offenders once they have violated probation. G.S. 15A-1344(a). You can learn more about DART-Cherry—and many other local and state-wide community corrections programs—in the North Carolina Sentencing Commission’s outstanding annual Compendium of Community Corrections Programs, authored by David Lagos of the Commission staff. Attorneys and judges thinking about DART-Cherry placement for certain defendants might also want to review DOC’s criteria for client appropriateness for the program to make sure the defendant is eligible.

Many people thought it was a shame that there was no analogous program for women—especially when DOC data show that a particularly high percentage of females in the correctional system are in need of substance abuse treatment. Some thought it was more than just a shame; more than once I’ve heard people wonder out loud if the lack of a program for women violated the Equal Protection Clause.

Recent news from the Department of Correction has made that question an academic one. Early March memos from the Secretary of Correction and the Director of the Division of Community Corrections have announced the impending opening of the Black Mountain Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Center for Women. According to the announcements, the center will offer a program similar to the 90-day program at DART-Cherry. It is scheduled to open in early April, gradually filling to its 50-bed capacity by the end of spring. Contact numbers are available in the linked memos if you need additional information.

To the extent that the programming at Black Mountain is similar to that at DART-Cherry, I imagine that time spent there will likewise qualify as “confinement” under G.S. 15-196.1, and will thus count for credit against a suspended sentence. State v. Lutz, 177 N.C. App. 140 (2006) (also discussed here).

On an unrelated note, thank you to all of you who posted comments or sent emails in response to my recent post on restitution to government agencies. You gave me exactly the type of information I was looking for, and I’m working on a short paper that will hopefully answer your questions.