PIERRE - South Dakota's Northern Hills Drug Court is holding its 15th graduation ceremony to recognize the latest graduates to complete the program that keeps offenders out of prison if they complete a rehabilitation program.

Circuit Judge Jerome Eckrich of Sturgis will deliver the keynote address in Rapid City at a Feb. 5 ceremony for four people. Officials say more than 30 people have graduated from the alternative sentencing program since it started in 2007.

The program allows convicted offenders with drug problems to avoid prison if they complete extensive treatment, pass frequent drug tests and undergo intensive supervision.

The state is expanding existing drug courts and creating others to improve rehabilitation and cut prison costs.

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