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AM NewsBrief: Aug. 18, 2023

This is the KGOU AM NewsBrief for Friday, Aug. 18, 2023.

Afghan Placement and Assistance Program

Two years after the fall of the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan, refugees who fled to Oklahoma are still struggling to get settled in their new homes. An interim study this week sought to find new ways to help the refugees.

The Oklahoma Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee held an interim study of the state’s Afghan Placement and Assistance Program on Tuesday. The study was requested by Democratic Sen. Carri Hicks.

After the capital city of Kabul fell in 2021, 1,800 Afghanis were resettled in Oklahoma — the third highest number in the United States, only behind California and Texas.

Veronica Laizure, the Deputy Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Oklahoma chapter, said while the refugees did receive assistance when they first arrived, resources were and continue to be limited and the community still faces challenges almost two years later.

"Many of our new friends have experienced a really traumatic and difficult and challenging journey only to experience further challenges once they have started rebuilding their lives here in Oklahoma," said Laizure.

The study’s policy recommendations include creating a better interagency communication structure, increasing access to safe and affordable housing for refugees, and making state documents easier for refugees to obtain.

Former Ninnekah Coach Sentenced

A former Ninnekah teacher and basketball coach was sentenced in Grady County.

56-year-old Ronald Akins pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that he sexually abused female students at Ninnekah Public Schools.

Akins was arrested in 2021, but the abuse dates as far back as 2015. He will serve 15 years in prison, with 25 years probation and mandatory sex offender registration.

Victims, including his former basketball players, spoke out in court. Attorneys claimed the school district knew about the allegations but failed to take action.

Tinker Air Force Base Deaths

There have been at least 17 deaths on Tinker Air Force Base this year, but officials have been tight lipped as to why.

According to reporting by the online news site Military.com, Tinker Air Force base officials have not identified what caused the deaths of the 17 people on base this year. Officials say they aren’t releasing information out of concern for families and units on base.

A spokesperson for Tinker told the outlet they died due to various causes and some deaths remain under investigation - but it is unclear what that number is.

The base in central Oklahoma has more than 30,000 personnel - but Air Force officials haven’t said if the dead are service members, government employees, contractors, or civilians.

Base officials told the outlet that Air Force policy prohibits disclosure of the number and causes of deaths, including suspected suicides still under investigation.

ODOC To Take Over Operations At Holdenville Jail

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) is set to take over the Davis Correctional Facility in Holdenville.

Beginning Oct. 1, ODOC will take over the operations of the facility from CoreCivic. The transition includes employees becoming part of ODOC. The department plans to maintain existing practices to ensure a smooth transition.

The move expands ODOC's oversight to 17 state-run institutions and five community centers in Oklahoma.

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