Prison officials in Virginia are under fire after they strip-searched an eight-year-old girl who was going to visit her father just before Thanksgiving. The young girl arrived at Buckingham Correctional Center with her father's girlfriend, Diamond Peerman, when a police dog trained to sniff out contraband singled out Peerman.
Correctional officers told Peerman that they would have to strip search both her and the girl if they wanted to be allowed into the visitation area. Peerman told the guards that she was not the young girl's legal guardian, but she was instructed that if she did not sign a form permitting guards to strip search the girl, they would have to leave.
Peerman reluctantly signed the form, and the guards pulled them into a room where they had to remove their clothing before they were allowed to visit the young girl's father.
The girl's mother was outraged when she learned that adult prison guards forced her young daughter to remove all of her clothes in front of them. She told the Virginian-Pilot that the experience traumatized her daughter, who has bipolar disorder, depression, and ADHD.
“She’s a minor, she’s a girl. She was traumatized,” she said. “She gets emotional, she will break down.”
When Virginia Governor Ralph Northam heard about what he happened, he immediately suspended the policy that allows prison guards to strip search children.
“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."
Officials have launched an investigation into what happened. DOC Director of Communications Lisa Kinney said that the staff member who approved the search did not have the authority to do so and would face discipline for their actions.
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