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.