North Carolina Department of Correction News - July 1999

DART-Drug Alcohol Recovery Treatment

Nearly half the inmates admitted to the N.C. prison system are addicted to drugs or alcohol. Since 1988, those inmates have had access to the Drug and Alcohol Recovery and Treatment Program so inmates can stop their addictions. Dart has 15 residential treatment programs with aftercare available at every prison. Wayne Correctional Center has the largest prison DART program with 156 beds set aside for treatment.

Steve Mitchel, director of DART- Wayne, said these beds are part of the continuum of care which starts at the processing center and hopefully continues with Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings upon release. He feels North Carolina has the best prison program in the country because DART stands alone, not a part of any division or section nor with any other responsibilities. This gives counselors the ability to focus on recovery treatment for the inmates.

Since the beginning of the program, 11,543 inmates have gone through residential treatment at DART- Wayne.

Hiring priority is given to those who have themselves overcome chemical dependency. Their first-hand experience makes them more credible with the inmates. Staff are quick to tell their horror stories, to illustrate how far they have come and what a blessed life-changing experience it is to be free of drugs or alcohol. Some were so desperate, they lost family or even became homeless, living only for the next fix. These were their darkest times.

As a group, the employees are quick-witted, easy-going and feel a great sense of worth in their jobs. One explained that the best part of the counseling job was seeing the difference in the inmates from when they first get off the bus to when they leave, especially those who get out of prison and continue recovery on the outside.

Most alcohol and drug addicts deny they have a problem. Treatment at DART-Wayne is designed to get the inmates to believe they do have a problem and offer them hope. The more intellectual the approach, the lower the success rate, Mitchel said, because the inmates try to figure out why they are taking drugs or drinking alcohol. "Self-knowledge avails you nothing," Mitchel said. "What we are trying to do is break down isolation, denial and delusion which is inherent in the illness. If you broke your nose, you wouldn’t wonder why it became broken, you would get it fixed."

On the streets, DART residential treatment would be called in-patient treatment. But the 35-day experience at DART -Wayne is just one segment of the treatment. DART goes further. The continuum care is based on inmates taking the next step, getting involved in AA or NA, and then getting eight weeks of aftercare when released from treatment. When DART inmates who have stayed with the continuum are six months from their release date, they are referred to the Winner’s Circle, a 12-week program to help them make the transition to the outside, no longer dependent on artificial stimulants for their peace of mind.

"Drinking and drugs have been solutions for the chemically-dependent person," Mitchel said. "In DART, these people learn how to live life again without the chemicals."

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