The 8-year-old girl who visited her father at the Virginia prison last month and stood at the receiving end of a humiliating strip-search, led the Virginia Governor Ralph Northam to suspend the policy, Friday.
The Governor said that he was “deeply disturbed” by the wrong use of strip-search policy and called for an inquiry. Meanwhile, the prison officials also apologized for last month’s ordeal and said that the proper sequence of events had not been followed.
The incident took place on November 24 at the Buckingham Correctional Center in the town of Dillwyn, Virginia, where the girl’s father is an inmate. The girl, who has not been named to protect her identity, was accompanied by her father’s girlfriend, Diamond Peerman.
Since Peerman is not the girl’s legal guardian, she could not give consent to a search, according to the prison. However, officials overlooked the guidelines for strip-search policy and examined the minor.
The search was signaled out after a sniffer dog alerted guards, and the two were warned that if they did not agree to the protocols, they would be barred from entering the prison again.
“The incident is deeply troubling and represents a breach in our protocol,” said Lisa Kinney, a spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Corrections. “We sincerely apologize to this child and her family,” she added. Further elaborating she exclaimed that Virginia has seen cases of children being used to smuggle contraband.
Peerman said the girl was fraught when instructed she would not be allowed to see her father unless she undressed in front of two female guards. She also reported to Virginia-Pilot newspaper that a guard asked the girl her age, while she was putting back her clothes.
“Why would you ask that when she’s naked?” Peerman said in her statement. The two were finally granted a no-contact visit and permitted to speak through glass.
The girl’s mother says her daughter is already a patient of bipolar disorder, depression and ADHD, and even missed her school due to the humiliating actions of prison officials.
The Virginia Department of Corrections had previously proposed policies that visitors be banned from using tampons, menstrual pads, or other menstrual products. However, the state suspended the proposed ban in 2018.