A Trip to DART Cherry

Last week, through a North Carolina Judicial College program, a group of judges, lawyers, and clerks visited DART Cherry, the state’s lone residential chemical dependency treatment facility for male probationers and parolees. It was an informative visit that, frankly, busted some myths about DART Cherry. Today’s post passes along some of what we learned.

First, let’s settle a matter of terminology. The acronym DART stands for Drug dart-cherryAlcohol Recovery Treatment. For many years all substance abuse programming in the corrections department—including treatment programs in prison—was referred to as “DART.” That is no longer the case. Prison-based programs are now referred to as Alcohol and Chemical Dependency Programs (ACDP programs). Prison-based ACDP programs are available at most but not all prisons.

By contrast, there are two and only two state-run
community-based residential chemical dependency programs
for probationers and parolees. They are DART Cherry for men, and Black Mountain Substance Abuse Treatment Center for Women. So, when you impose an active sentence and include a recommendation for “DART,” that is technically incorrect—nobody serving active time goes to “DART,” because DART Cherry is for probationers and parolees. It would be more technically correct to write “recommend ACDP programming,” or something like that. Or, you could just check the box that says the court recommends substance abuse treatment. Ultimately, if you write “DART” on an active-sentence judgment form, Corrections will know what you mean and will steer the person toward treatment if it is needed. But I just don’t want anyone to think that any prison inmates will be going to DART Cherry. They won’t.

Where is DART Cherry? DART Cherry is in Wayne County, in Goldsboro.

What is DART Cherry, legally? DART Cherry is a residential program. It can be ordered as a special condition of probation under G.S. 15A-1343(b1)(2). Before 2011, a residential program was a defined term that was permitted only as part of an Intermediate punishment under Structured Sentencing. After Justice Reinvestment, however, a residential program may be ordered in any probation case—Community or Intermediate. It may also be ordered as part of probation for DWI. DWI parolees may be paroled to DART Cherry under G.S. 20-179(p)(3), but that has become less common now that DWI sentences are served in the Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Program.

How long is DART Cherry? The DART Cherry program is 90 days long. There used to be a 28-day program, but it ended in 2011, as described here.

Though the official curriculum is 90 days, sometimes it takes a little extra time for a person to complete the program—maybe they arrive in Goldsboro before the next class begins, or maybe they have a disciplinary incident that causes them to be held back for a week or two. With that in mind, program officials ask that you not write “90-day DART Cherry” on your judgment forms. Instead, just write “DART Cherry.” Leaving the duration off gives them flexibility to have the person stay long enough to complete the program without having to seek a modification from the court to cover any additional time beyond 90 days.

DART Cherry is like Garth Brooks’ second album: No Fences. DART Cherry is not a prison. It is a residential therapeutic community. Residents stay in dormitory-style rooms (they are not locked down), and there is no fence around the perimeter. A resident could easily leave at any time. Leaving would be a violation of probation, of course, but my point is that it would be logistically easy to have a friend or Uber pick you up at the curb and drive away. Residents wear regular “civilian” clothes, not any sort of jail garb.

And yet, DART Cherry counts for jail credit. The court of appeals held in State v. Lutz, 177 N.C. App. 140 (2006), that DART Cherry is sufficiently restrictive of a resident’s liberty to qualify as confinement under G.S. 15-196.1. Many of our tour participants said that defendants in their districts routinely are not awarded jail credit for DART Cherry. If that’s true it is wrong, and affected defendants should petition for the credit under G.S. 15-196.4.

Given that DART Cherry counts for jail credit, it may be best to order it only for defendants who have enough suspended sentence time in the bank to cover it. That said, I think you could probably send someone with an even shorter misdemeanor sentence if they wanted to get the treatment. Just be aware that the person is effectively revocation-proof after they attend the program, and probably shouldn’t be kept on probation any longer than it takes to complete it.

Wait list? Bed availability? There is not a wait list for a person to attend DART Cherry, and beds are available. I think the notion that there may be some kind of wait list for the program stems from the fact that classes start every 3 to 4 weeks, and the Division of Adult Correction runs a statewide pickup route to coincide with the start of each class. For example, as you can see in the calendar here, the most recent class begins this week, with DAC pickup from the eastern part of the state on Tuesday, from the western part of the state on Wednesday, and from the central part of the state today.

Suppose you’re at a probation violation hearing next week and the court orders DART Cherry. Does the person have to wait until the October 18-20 pickup cycle to come to Goldsboro? No. DART Cherry will accept the person any time. The court may ask a probation officer to bring the defendant to DART Cherry on any day, without having to wait for the next regularly scheduled bus. In fact, if the person were to arrive next week, treatment staff would probably get the person caught up and on cycle with the class that begins this week. The point is that the court does not have to wait until the next official start date to get the person into treatment. It’s best and most efficient if you can wait, but if someone needs treatment urgently, the program will accept him right away.

Jail awaiting transfer to DART Cherry. For sure, there is no requirement that a person be jailed while he waits for transfer to DART Cherry. But a judge could order that. I think the clearest way to do it is order a split sentence of a defined period (perhaps timed to coincide with the next scheduled DAC pickup), followed by residential treatment at DART Cherry. It was mentioned during the tour that a short time in jail before DART Cherry can be beneficial as an opportunity for detox, because DART Cherry is not a detox facility. I understand, but I suspect sheriffs and jail administrators may be thinking, neither is my jail.

Screening and assessment before treatment. Under G.S. 15A-1343(b3), a defendant ordered to DART Cherry or Black Mountain must be screened and assessed before attending either program. That screening and assessment is conducted through TASC.

Other eligibility criteria. This document lists some of DAC’s other eligibility criteria for participating in DART Cherry.

DART Cherry is not CRV. Program staff told us that occasionally a judge will order a period of confinement in response to violation to be completed at DART Cherry. No can do. CRV for a felony is served in the state’s CRV centers in Robeson County and Burke County. CRV for a misdemeanor is, under G.S. 15A-1344(d2), served “where the defendant would have served an active sentence”—so, either in the local jail or through the Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Program. If you want a defendant to go to DART Cherry, order it as a residential program, not as a CRV. Residents of the CRV centers get some substance abuse education, but not the same level of treatment they would receive at DART Cherry.

The first time may not be the charm. Something we noticed on the tour was that many residents had been to DART Cherry more than once. Treatment staff said they welcome repeat visitors; some people just aren’t ready to succeed their first time around. I don’t mean to say that the program will eventually work for everyone, but I wanted to pass along that there’s no rule against a second (or subsequent) attempt.