OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – State leaders are celebrating the signing of a law that clarifies and updates the Youthful Offender Act.

The original Youthful Offender Act was passed in 1995 to ensure public safety by holding juveniles accountable for crimes.

After 25 years of amendments, officials say the structure of the act has become difficult to follow.

“As a former assistant district attorney in Oklahoma County and my experiences at the Office of Juvenile Affairs as general counsel and executive director, I have prosecuted, amended and applied the Youthful Offender Act for 15 years,” said Office of Juvenile Affairs Executive Director Rachel Holt. “I believe in the Youthful Offender Act and its purpose to hold children accountable for serious crimes while giving them the ability to work a treatment and rehabilitation plan in the juvenile system, but always with the hammer of being transferred to the adult system if the child is not successful in that opportunity. I have seen lives changed through that opportunity. I appreciate the cooperation from the District Attorneys Council and the diverse district attorneys who assisted in writing this legislation. I believe the updates will help apply the act uniformly across the state and lead to better outcomes. I am grateful to our authors, Senator Howard and Representative Moore, and to Governor Stitt for their support in improving our juvenile justice system to make it the best in the nation.”

Senate Bill 217 was approved and signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt.

“Consistent and appropriate accountability of our young people is critical to their future success and to the success of our state,” said Sen. Brent Howard. “The updates made this session to the Youthful Offender Act ensure that young people who commit serious offenses experience equally serious consequences while preventing them from participating in the adult criminal justice system. The more youth we have served in this way, the better Oklahoma will be.”

“I appreciate the hard work of the many prosecutors, the District Attorneys Council staff, and those from OJA who worked together to produce legislation that will help provide prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and OJA workers clear guidance as youthful offender cases work through the judicial system,” said District Attorney Chris Boring, whose District 26 covers Alfalfa, Dewey, Major, Woods and Woodward counties. “This legislation will help reduce recidivism and encourage rehabilitation of youthful offenders by emphasizing the need for treatment plan compliance. This legislation also protects public safety by ensuring that violent youthful offenders who are not amenable to treatment will be held accountable. I thank Senator Brent Howard, Representative Anthony Moore, the entire Legislature and Governor Stitt for realizing the importance of this legislation.”

It will now go into effect on Nov. 1.