DILLWYN, Va. (WNCN) — Controversy has ensued after reports say an eight-year-old girl was forced to participate in a strip search at a Virginia prison.
According to the Washington Post, Diamond Peerman drove 2½ hours the Sunday before Thanksgiving to take her boyfriend’s 8-year-old daughter to visit him at a state prison in Dillwyn, Va.
After a drug-sniffing dog came up to the pair, a Buckingham Correctional Center guard told them they had to submit to strip-searches or else they could be banned from the prison, Peerman told The Washington Post.
The young girl scoffed at the idea of stripping her clothes for the purposes of seeing her father.
“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, which first reported the search Thursday. “That’s when she started crying.”
Now, the incident has caught the eye of various civil rights advocates as well as Virginia Department of Corrections officials who says the strip-search was against internal policy.
The mother of the young girl was not named in the report, to protect the eight-year-old, but she says the relationship between the daughter and father is good because she can visit him weekly — except now the family says they will not return to the facility.
Reports say the girl has missed school due to the incident which has exacerbated her symptoms from bipolar disorder, depression and ADHD, her mother told the newspaper.
The prison’s policy calls for a strip-search of anyone singled out by a drug-sniffing dog.
Refusing to submit to the search can result in the person being turned away from future visits.
However, the policy also requires a legal guardian’s permission to strip-search a child, a DOC spokeswoman told the Virginian-Pilot.
“It is deeply troubling and represents a breach in our protocol,” Virginia DOC Director of Communications Lisa Kinney told the outlet. “We sincerely apologize to this child and her family and will be taking immediate disciplinary action against the person responsible.”
Now, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has called for an investigation into the matter.
“I am deeply disturbed by these reports — not just as Governor, but as a pediatrician and a dad,” Northam said in a statement. “I’ve directed the Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security to suspend this policy while the Department conducts an immediate investigation and review of their procedures.”
Civil rights advocates say strip searches like this can be traumatizing for children, especially when they are just trying to visit a relative.
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