The Virginia Department of Corrections has publicly apologized after it’s been revealed that an 8-year-old visiting her father at a state prison was subjected to a strip search.
The Washington Post reports that on Nov. 24, Diamond Peerman drove her boyfriend’s daughter to visit him at the Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Va. Upon their arrival, that’s when the unspeakable occurred:
Diamond Peerman says she and the girl were circled by a Virginia Department of Corrections dog trained to sniff out contraband. Peerman was singled out by the dog and told by prison officials that both she and the girl had to be searched. Peerman says both she and the girl removed all their clothes and were searched, and that they were then allowed a visit, but only through glass.
DOC policy explicitly states that in order to conduct a search on a minor, consent must be provided by a legal parent or guardian. Peerman claims she was told to sign a consent form authorizing the search despite informing guards that she was not the child’s legal guardian.
“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.”
Left with the choice to either subject herself to the search or not see her father, the girl broke down into tears and was led by two female guards to a bathroom in order to conduct the search.
“We would characterize that as a highly coercive policy,” Bill Farrar, director of strategic communications for ACLU of Virginia, told the Pilot after examining the policy.
In the aftermath of this incident, the girl’s mother claims that her daughter, who already suffers from bipolar disorder, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, has been struggling to cope with what occurred.
“She’s a minor, she’s a girl. She was traumatized,” the girl’s mother said. “She gets emotional, she will break down.”
In response, Lisa Kinney, the Virginia DOC Director of Communications, admitted that department procedures weren’t followed and that the individual who conducted the search was unauthorized to do so.
“The staff member who authorized the search of the minor following a K-9 alert didn’t have the authority to do so,” Kinney wrote in an email to the Pilot. “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.”
Understandably, the girl’s mother said that despite missing her father, her daughter will no longer visit him from now on.