CHICAGO (WREX) — Illinois wants to expand a program that gives certain offenders a break in the criminal justice system, and it's looking to Winnebago County for guidance.
Winnebago County State's Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross spoke in front of the lawmakers in the Public Safety and Judiciary committees Monday in Chicago about the deferred prosecution program.
The program, which launched in Winnebago County in 2014, gives probation-like oversight to first-time, non-violent criminals but keeps the offender from having a conviction on their record.
In turn, a clean record will allow participants to land a job more easily and avoid a cycle of crime.
The the 333 people who completed the program in Winnebago County, only 5 percent (14) went on to re-offend.
However, most offenders can't afford the $500 cost to opt in to the program. Hite Ross and State Rep. Maurice West (D) Rockford want a state grant to help people access the program for free.
"No individual should be excluded from this program because of their limited financial resources," Hite Ross said. "Because justice is blind and justice should not have a price tag on it."
The deferred prosecution plan is a part of Gov. JB Pritzker's criminal justice reform plan announced last week.