Will Project Exile return to Richmond?

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — For the past month, Richmond’s police chief has been faced with one shooting after another.

The latest happened Thursday night. The victims who suffered non-life threatening injuries were a father and his 7-year-old son.

Chief Alfred Durham spoke to 8News and said he planned to meet with federal prosecutors Friday to discuss bringing back a controversial program implemented back in the 90s when Richmond’s murder rate was one of the worst in the country.

“We have a meeting tomorrow set up with the U.S. attorney’s office to talk about exile,” Durham told 8News while on the scene of Thursday’s shooting, which occurred at a bus stop in the city’s East End. “We have to bring that back. A lot of people are against it, but when does it end? We have to send a message that it will not be tolerated and we need to send these gun toters, these shooters away from our city.”

“A lot of people are against it, but when does it end? We have to send a message that it will not be tolerated and we need to send these gun toters, these shooters away from our city.” — RPD Chief Durham

Project Exile was implemented back in 1997. It targeted criminals who were illegally carrying guns in the city.

Under the program, the criminal lost their right to remain in the community and was charged with a federal crime and sent away to a federal prison. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions spoke to law enforcement during a visit to Richmond back in March saying he hoped to implement Project Exile on a national scale.

“We’re going to attempt to bring more of those cases and exile some people out of Richmond to some federal penitentiary,” Sessions said during his visit.

“Whether or not doing now what they did in the 90s would have any impact I think is questionable,” legal analyst Russ Stone told 8News.

Stone says while Richmond’s crime rate did go down after Project Exile, conditions were different. He says one big difference is federal penalties back then were harsher.

“Since the 90s the state legislature has changed many of Virginia’s laws so that now Virginia’s laws are just as harsh if not sometimes harsher than the federal penalties are,” said Stone.

We reached out to Richmond’s Police Chief and Richmond’s Commonwealth’s attorney Friday but they could not be reached for comment.

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