Virginia bans prison strip-searches for children

Nellie Chapman
December 8, 2019

Understandably, people are upset after a recent report revealed that, according to reports, Virginia correctional officers searched an 8-year-old girl after being told that she would not be allowed to see her father if he refused.

"I'm deeply disturbed by these reports - not just as Governor, but as a pediatrician and a dad. I've directed [Virginia Public Safety and Homeland Security] to suspend this policy while the Department conducts and immediate investigation and review of their procedures", he tweeted.

The child, who is bipolar and has depression and ADHD, was at the Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Va. with her father's girlfriend, Diamond Peerman, for a November 24 visit with her dad when a Department of Corrections K-9 sniffing for drugs alerted to the adult, requiring a search.

The eight-year-old would have to consent to a strip search and if she didn't, she would not be able to visit her father that day after the two-and-a-half-hour drive to see him.

Peerman is the girlfriend of the girl's father and went with her to the prison. 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.

Diamond Peerman says she and the girl were circled by a Virginia Department of Corrections dog trained to sniff out contraband.

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The incident took place days before the Thanksgiving holiday at Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, about a 75-minute drive west of Richmond.

As of Friday morning, the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, suspended the policy and now things could be real for prison staff, as revealed by DOC Communications Director Lisa Kinney, that the member of the staff who approved the search for the girl did not have that. authority. We sincerely apologize to this girl and her family and will take immediate disciplinary action against the responsible person, "Kinney wrote in an email".

The girl's mother said she suffers from bipolar disorder, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and the incident has intensified some of those issues.

State policy allows for such searches, but performing without a legal guardian's consent violates department policy, a corrections spokeswoman said. She'll no longer make the trip to visit her dad, her mother said. "She gets emotional, she will break down".

In later texts, the mother asks, "Did they make you take your trousers off?" "I'm not sending her back there". "She was traumatized", she said.

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