Winnebago County Offenders Offered New Program

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) -- Winnebago County has a new program for first-time offenders that will give them a chance to avoid a criminal record.

The county's deferred-prosecution program launched Jan. 1. The Rockford Register Star reports that the program offers amnesty to first-time, non-violent offenders. However they must agree to conditions set by prosecutors. That could include community service, earning a high-school diploma or job training.

A volunteer community panel screens applicants to see if they qualify. Participants must agree to a recorded confession to be used during prosecution if they don't complete the program.

Officials say the program will help offenders get jobs because they won't have a criminal record. They also say it will reduce jail populations and court caseloads.

The program is based off a similar effort in Kane County.

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