A civil rights group calls on state lawmakers to get an age-old practice off the books. The NAACP says "banishment" needs to go, but supporters say it keeps criminals out.
Articles from the Kenbridge-Victoria dispatch out of Lunenburg County showcase convictions from years back. They range from drug offenses, to theft, to welfare fraud. In many of the cases, the offenders are banned from returning to Lunenburg County for five or even ten years.
"Each week practically when you pick up the paper, someone has been banished from Lunenburg County," said Aileen Morman with the NAACP.
She calls the practice outdated.
"They should be allowed to come home…The practice is so bad that when an individual has a death in their family, they're not allowed to return to the county for the funeral. The police in the county will surround the church to make sure the individual is not there," Morman added.
Lunenburg prosecutor Robert Clement says banning criminals is part of a plea deal.
"It's never anything that's pushed or made mandatory. It's completely voluntary," he explained.
Violent offenders agree to it in exchange for reduced prison time, but he says in the last year, the county is moving away from offering that option to offenders with ties to the area.
"It's really used more recently for people who are outside the county and they come in and make trouble, either they're selling drugs or commit a violent offense or multiple burglaries, we will say ok we really would like you to stay out of Lunenburg and don't do this thing anymore," Clement said.
But this isn't the end of the NAACP's fight. On November 19th, it will hold a town hall meeting in the county to rally the community to take a stand in getting this practice thrown out. The group is asking for families with relatives who have been banned to come forward.
NBC12 reached out to state senator Frank Ruff. He says he is unfamiliar with the practice but can see both sides and added he doesn't have enough background yet to push for changes at the state level.
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