Incident Where 8-Year-Old Was Strip-Searched By Prison Guards Before Being Allowed to Visit Her Father Deemed ‘Deeply Troubling’

An 8-year-old girl was very upset after she went to visit her dad in prison, and she was strip-searched before she was allowed to see her father.

According to The Virginian-Pilot, the young girl was told that if she did not comply with the strip-search that she would not be allowed to see her father. The girl had gone to the prison with her father’s girlfriend, her biological mother had learned about the search after her daughter texted her.

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Virginia state law allows strip-searches at the Buckingham Correctional Center, where the girl’s father is being held. As The Virginian-Pilot reports, had the girl and her father’s girlfriend refused the search, they “could have been banned from the prison.”

Eight-Year-Old Was Strip-Searched Before Being Allowed to Visit Dad in Prison

However, as the executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Daniel Macallair, told The Virginian-Pilot, “That’s outrageous”:

“It’s generally regarded in the criminal justice field that you do not strip search young children. … I mean most adults, certainly most adults who work in the field of child welfare would know better, that this is an act of child abuse.”

DOC Director of Communications Lisa Kinney agreed with Macallair’s statement. According to Kinney, “the staff member who approved the search didn’t have that authority.” She said in an email to The Pilot:

8-Year-Old Girl Strip-Searched at Prison to Visit Dad

“It is deeply troubling and represents a breach in our protocol. We sincerely apologize to this child and her family and will be taking immediate disciplinary action against the person responsible.” The email continued:

“Our procedure states that only a parent or legal guardian can approve the strip search of a minor; in this case, the adult visitor who signed the consent for the minor to be strip-searched wasn’t the minor’s parent or legal guardian. The staff member who authorized the search of the minor following a K-9 alert didn’t have the authority to do so. We take this matter very seriously and as mentioned above will be taking immediate disciplinary action against the person responsible.”

In a text message sent to her mother, the 8-year-old wrote, “Hey mom, am so mad, the jail had to strip me with all of my clothes off this doesn’t make no [sense.]” The mom replied to her daughter saying, “What? Call me.”

The mom then asks, “Did they make you take your pants off?” She replied, “Yes all of my clothes off.” The “haunting” event took place on November 24. Diamond Peerman, the child’s father’s girlfriend said that it began while they were standing in line as the prison’s drug dog circled those waiting to visit people inside.

The dog reportedly alerted guards to Peerman and the young girl. However, nothing was found on them or in their car.

Incident Where 8-Year-Old Was Strip-Searched By Prison Guards Before Being Allowed to Visit Her Father Deemed 'Deeply Troubling'

After Peerman was told that she would need to be searched, she asked the guard if the 8-year-old would be strip-searched as well. Peerman told The Pilot that they were initially told no, but that decision was later overturned. Peerman believed that if she didn’t consent to the girl being searched she wouldn’t be allowed to see her father.

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In an interview with the mother, she told The Pilot that her daughter, who already suffers from bipolar disorder, depression, and ADHD, is now traumatized after being strip-searched. “She’s a minor, she’s a girl. She was traumatized. She gets emotional, she will break down.”

The girl even missed school as a result of the incident. The mom said that even though “her and her dad have a good relationship … because she gets to go see him every weekend. But, at the same time, she went through something that traumatized her. I’m not sending her back there.”

As The Virginian-Pilot reports, on December 6, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam suspended the policy.

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