Drug offenders get dirty gardening to stay “clean”

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Kansas City Drug Court participants on the road to recovery now have a unique way of getting "clean" which involves a bit of dirt.

57-year-old drug offender and Drug Court participant, Billy Smith, has never worked in a garden before. But on a wet and grey Saturday morning he was turning some dirt in the Kansas City garden.

"My buddy over there, the judge, he said ‘come to the garden and learn something,’" said Smith. "This is my first time, I haven't planted nothing (sic), I just threw dirt.”

For 40 years he's also never been sober, but he is now.

"This is the first thing I ever started and finished," said Smith.

At 17 years old Smith started drinking and using hard drugs, a lifestyle that almost put him in the ground.

"At one time I probably would have been in the dirt. I probably would have ended up killing myself for drinking so much," said Smith.

For Smith and others who are participating in Drug Court this is their garden, a symbol of growing and of new life. Municipal and Drug Court Judge Joseph Locascio says those who come here are less likely to re-offend.

"We plant the seed, we work the garden, we pull the weeds. They at the same time are in recovery and they have to re-make their lives." said Judge Locascio. "All we're really trying to do is to show people that we care about them, and when we do that, when we show people that we care about them that takes them a long way towards their recovery.”

Judge Locascio says like a garden they learn to tend more to their own lives, relationships and health.

"I knew who I was, but now I know who I want to be," said Smith.

Since the program started in 2007 more than 200 people have graduated from Municipal Drug Court.

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