Officials in Jefferson County, Illinois have worked out an agreement with collection agency Pioneer Credit Recovery for the firm to begin collection unpaid fines and fees for felonies, misdemeanors and DUIs.

The move to hire the third-party agency follows a four-month amnesty period the county offered earlier this year where debtors could pay at a 50% reduction as long as they did so during the allotted time. The amnesty period, which ran from March through June, had some success.

"There were several thousand dollars brought in during that time period and numerous cases were closed out due to that fact," Jefferson County Circuit Clerk John Scott said. The county had cautioned debtors that the 50% amnesty program would be offered only once before debts would be handed over to an outside collection agency.

Pioneer Credit Recovery will begin collecting the old debts immediately, according to local officials. It was not clear the total of outstanding court fines and debts owed to the county or the amount officials hope to have returned from the program. Details of the contract with Pioneer Credit Recovery also were immediately available.

State's Attorney Doug Hoffman, however, said the program is a "zero cost to the county and taxpayers."

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