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State lawmakers propose bills to reduce the prison population

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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Lawmakers are proposing bills to reduce the inmate population. Several are also aimed at rehabilitating offenders and giving them a second chance.

Some legislators say this is key to reducing the prison population because so many prisons are full of repeat offenders.

Joey Chappell has been out of prison for nearly seven years.

He went in as a criminal --serving time for burglary and assault with a deadly weapon -- but says he came out a changed man. However, that did not matter when applying for jobs.

 "I applied for 78 jobs and 78 jobs I was turned down simply because of my record," Chappell said.

 That was until Victory Life Church hired him.

 "All I needed was for someone to give me a chance," Chappell said.

 Several proposed laws would give former offenders, like Chappell, that chance.

 One would expand work opportunities by forcing forcing job licensing boards to look closer at ex-cons.

 "If they have a job that they can go to and they can start building up their self-esteem and self-worth then they start being a benefit to society," Chappell said.

 Another would let violent offenders collect good behavior credits, starting day one in prison.

Rep. Bobby Cleveland says right now they cannot get those credits until they have served 85 percent of their time.

 "Not only is it going to help our prison system, but what we want to try to do is we need to keep these guys from coming back to prison. We want to incentivize them. We want them to have some education so they don't come back," Rep. Cleveland said.

The Oklahoma Corrections Professionals says these changes are needed.

 "Our prisons are extremely over capacity right now and extremely understaffed and you know it's a recipe for disaster," Sean Wallace, Director of the Oklahoma Corrections Professionals, said.

Rep. Scott Biggs is opposed to these proposals.

He says they are soft on crime and could put you at risk.

Instead, Rep. Biggs says we should focus on non-violent offenders who would benefit from mental health and drug court, not by releasing the worse criminals Oklahoma has.

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