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.


15 thoughts on “A Trip to DART Cherry”

  1. WOW. This article answers all of the questions I and many attorneys have about what DART cherry actually is. This is one of the most informative articles I have read. Unlike the legal articles that I have background in, I knew little to nothing on this subject. For a while, I thought people were saying, “Dark Cherry”

    • I spend 4 months there 6 1/2 yrs ago 1 month waiting or detox/ 3 months Recovery…. I will be clean and sober 7 yrs June 1 2017 Because of what I learned and experience there. Thank you for the experience. One have to earn it.. Mr. Coley will make you do things that will deflate your EGO.. You address everyone by Mister/Miss….I thank that place everyday for the discipline I learned.

      • My nephew was court ordered today to go to Dart Cherry Program. Mostly everything I can find about the program on the Internet is old information. Any feedback you can provide would be greatly appreciated. He has to stay in jail until DART said he could go there, which is in January. Thank you!!

    • For the longest time I thought people were saying Dark too. Someone should do research into their disciplinary process. It is groundbreaking.

  2. For extra clarity, under the above heading “Screening and assessment before treatment”-
    it is my understanding, and experience, not only must an offender be assessed before attending treatment, the TASC assessment must also find that DART treatment is needed and recommended in the view of the TASC provider. The court ordering DART is not sufficient to get them there on it’s on standing, but TASC must also enter the same finding after their own assessment. It is a “two-pronged” entry requirement, being both a court order, and a TASC referral. If either piece is missing the offender can not attend DART (in my understanding and experience). As an example, we have in the past had a Judge to order DART, and after TASC conducted the assessment, TASC did not find the person had a substance abuse problem arising to the level to require inpatient treatment at DART, and as such the person did not meet the required “two-prong” prerequisites to attend.

  3. My son was just kicked out of dart. Because someone was using chewing tobacco in his group. I think this was so unfair . All in the group were white? The probation or leader that did this was black. I have never been racist but I think this was racist probably pay back for Trump getting elected. Im thinking og sending the information to the press. I believe in punihment but kicking the group out for something someone else done? WE CANT HOLD EVERYONES HAND AND MAKE EVERYONE DO RIGHT. IF we could there would be no need for Dart.

    • As observed in the Spring of 2007: DART retains a standard of the residents not being responsible FOR the actions of each other, but the residents having a responsibility TO each other. It is also important to understand that DART is a STRUCTURE based program as opposed to a TREATMENT based program. In other words, you can actually walk around talking openly about your intention to return to using drugs as long as you have completed all of your disciplinary requirements and adhere to the daily schedule. This is a reflection of DART being a sovereign program that also allows rules and standards of completion to be developed internally by the employees. Most likely your son was just sentenced to complete the program by a judge. The standards for completion are defined by the employees and are subject to amendment at any time. An employee can literally make up a new rule on the spot based on their mood at the time of the event and DART standards do not allow for review or discussion before implementation for rules made up in such situations. Your son was most likely the subject of the DART standard that he failed in his responsibility TO the people around him to provide a positive example to those same people and that led to those people displaying negative behaviors. DART standards would state that It wasn’t you son’s fault that the person was using tobacco, it was your son’s failure to properly participate in the treatment environment that led to the deviant behavior around him and if your son were to behave like that in prison or out on the streets it could cost him his life and that would be the basis for him being deemed as not suitable for DART treatment. The DART community would have also been informed of what had happened and how to use that as an example in determining what it takes ‘to be successful at DART Cherry.’ The actual events as they occurred are most likely not recorded in the paperwork return to the court, but the offense would be codified into some broader category (disrespectful behavior or something vague like that). It’s odd, it’s unusual, it’s seems a little delusional and unethical, but it’s not illegal and the people representing the court will most likely defend that paperwork with their lives before starting an investigation to find out if what actually happened merits the time and expense of processing a violation.

      Did you know:
      DART Cherry has a standard on how residents hold their pencils?

      That a resident participating in the program for more than 20 days without having disciplinary action taken
      against them will have an administrative intervention to find out what that resident is doing to manipulate
      the staff and residents into not taking disciplinary action against said resident? This could lead to the
      resident losing all privileges (phone, visitation, recreation, canteen, et, al.) until further notice all for doing
      nothing wrong. If the resident continues to behave in this manner (requiring no action) then the resident
      will be deemed unsuitable for the program and ejected.

  4. Unfortunately, the lack of a fence is a completely moot point. The boundaries are virtual and can be moved day, shift to shift, and staff member to staff member to staff member. It would probably be better for the mental well being of those incarcerated there if there was a fence so that the outer boundaries would be fixed and recognizable. And have no misunderstanding that the individuals sentenced there are incarcerated. The staff members can change the boundaries (outside and inside) in the blink of an eye as they please and the residents that cross the change will find this out when they are having disciplinary action against them for crossing the boundary as rule changes are not required to be announced upon implementation. And the staff member’s don’t have to agree on the boundaries. One staff member can say that an outside boundary is on the back side of a tree and another can decide that the boundary is on the front side of the same tree. Part of the reasoning for this is based on the DART standard of assessing behavior in terms of “out on the street” or “in prison” and that if you were to cross a gang boundary it could cost you your life. Besides the toe of your shoe crossing that movable line being considered absconding and having your sentence activated , staff members will tell stories of people being raped, murdered, and disappearing into the swamp for leaving DART Cherry and they will say it as if the community around the facility is populated by rapist and murderers and that’s just the situation you’re in.

  5. I was forced to enter the program because of probation violations. I learned a lot about respect and from all the teachers and espically mr coley. He didn’t take no mess from anybody. It made me straight my life out. I am clean and sober now for many years.

  6. I seem to be reading so many negative comments about the program and the staff. My nephew will be going there in January so any information you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank You!!

  7. Obviously youve never been. That place is horrible. And yes it is prison . 12 men stacked in a single dorm room. Its not a rehab its a prison with no gate. Very unprofessional staff . prison food. And dangerous people. Its not rehab . people said they rather do prison than ever go back to dart. Some people even left to do their time in a regular prison. Dont be fooled it is jail. Bloods crips Lkings sureno norteno and even mm ms13 and aryans go there. Ask anyone who has been. It is prison and it sucks!!!!


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