Virginia girl prison strip-searched before visiting father at prison.
An eight-year-old girl was strip-searched before being allowed to visit her father in prison, sparking uproar and prompting an apology, but causing the child to cease visiting the relative.
State prison authorities denounced the actions by a staff member at Buckingham correctional center, in Virginia, after being contacted for comment by the Virginian-Pilot, which first reported the incident.
“Hey Mom, am so mad the jail had to strip me with all of my clothes off this doesn’t make no [sense]” the girl messaged, according to texts obtained by the Virginian-Pilot.
Her mother responded by telling the girl to call her, but then asking her is they had made her take her pants off.
Yes, the girl clarified, “all of my clothes off”.
The media has not identified the mother, in order to protect the identity of the minor.
The child visits her incarcerated father every weekend and was with the father’s girlfriend, Diamond Peerman, during the trip on 24 November.
When they reached the facility, the pair joined a line to wait their turn to enter, Peerman said.
Staff drew Peerman aside for additional screening after a dog sniffed and singled her out. She would have to be strip-searched, they said. Peerman then asked if the young girl would have to be strip-searched, too, and though they were told no at first, the staff spoke with a captain. Soon, they returned to tell the pair the girl would have to be searched, too, the local report said.
The eight-year-old would have to consent to a strip search and if she didn’t, she would not be able to visit her father that day after the two-and-a-half-hour drive to see him.
“I told her, that means you have to take all of your clothes off or you’re not going to be able to see your dad,” Peerman told the Virginian-Pilot. “That’s when she started crying.”
The state’s department of corrections policy mandates: “If a visitor refuses to submit to a search, or if a parent or guardian refuses consent for the search of a minor, the individual shall not be searched by force, but shall be denied entry into the facility,” but rights groups, the girl’s mother and even the state corrections facility have denounced the actions at the facility that day.
The Virginia department of corrections issued an apology and called the incident “deeply troubling”. The department added that the person who authorized the strip search did not have the authority to do so and is facing immediate disciplinary action.
A local television report noted that the girl was taken, crying, to a bathroom by two female officers and strip-searched, including being asked to bend over and cough.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia called the policy “highly coercive”.
The mother later said that while the girl’s father is in prison, the girl will no longer see him. “I’m not sending her back there,” she said.