More prison time on tap for Richmond felons caught with guns

Published: Jan. 8, 2016 at 7:59 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 18, 2016 at 7:59 PM EST
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - After a spike in recent gun violence across the city, Richmond's police chief confirms he's aiming to send criminals illegally using guns behind bars for more time, possibly in another state. Police say the ongoing Project Exile initiative will soon be put into high gear.

Project Exile sparked in Richmond back in 1997 to fight gun violence. Huge billboards sprang up across the city warning "An illegal gun gets you five years in federal prison." Now, Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham says he's working with prosecutors to beef up the program, sending even more criminals packing guns, to federal court. That could mean longer time behind bars, even out-of-state, exiled from the community.

However, NBC12 legal analyst Steve Benjamin says Project Exile has been criticized for splitting up families, with children unable to visit their parents in prison far away.

"As attractive a deterrent that might be to some, it also of course, has the effect of breaking up families, making it impossible to have contact with children, and their parents who are incarcerated," said Benjamin.

Others argue Project Exile is racist, targeting inner city communities. Chief Durham says he'll be releasing more specifics on the crackdown in recent weeks.

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