TULSA, Okla. - Quick facts:
- Some have expressed frustration with Oklahoma's youthful offender program following recent teen arrests.
- Officials say they are doing everything they can to prosecute according to the law.
- FOX23 took a look at how the youthful offender program works.
Local officials are speaking out after several recent cases in Green Country have prompted public frustration with Oklahoma’s youthful offender program.
FOX23 spoke with the district attorney’s office about the program Wednesday.
Though officials at the office do agree that teen crime is on the rise, they say they are doing everything they can to prosecute according to the law.
FOX23 learned that teens under the age of 18 cannot be charged as an adult unless they are charged with first degree murder. All other violent crimes fall under the Youthful Offender statute.
Officials say the youthful offender system is a hybrid system between juvenile court and adult court, and youthful offenders can only be sentenced as adults if prosecutors ask for it and if judges agree.
The Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office says they are mandated to ask for adult sentencing for all those accused in a robbery or a shooting, except in special circumstances.
If adult sentencing is not granted and the suspect is sentenced as a youthful offender, then he or she goes into a rehabilitation program until they complete it or turn 18.5 years old.
The programs are held in jail-like facilities, but the teens are allowed more liberties while they work to better themselves.
At the end of their time at the facility, a representative from the Oklahoma Juvenile Affairs completes a report, stating whether the suspect successfully completed the program or not. Based on that, officials make a recommendation for a judge, who can then decide to send the teen on to prison, to put them on probation or to dismiss the case.
Prosecutors say if the teens successfully complete the program, judges are looked down upon if they send the teen to prison, because they would be perceived as not giving the teen a chance.
However, critics say teens are saying and doing what they need to do in order to get out of the program and then go back to the same lifestyle.
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