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8-Year-Old Girl Left In Tears After Being Strip-Searched By Virginia Prison Officials When She Came To Visit Her Dad

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A report has been submitted after an 8-year-old girl went to visit her father in jail the week of Thanksgiving and was strip-searched by the corrections officers.

The girl, who remains anonymous, was visiting her father at the Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Virginia. It was customary for her to visit every week, though this visit was particularly important during the holiday.

Her father’s girlfriend, Diamond Peerman, accompanied her on this particular visit.

Upon entering the facility, Peerman and the child went through the usual, routine checks that all visitors must go through when going into a correctional facility.

However, a Department of Corrections K-9, who was trained to detect drugs and other contraband, approached Peerman, which prompted a required strip-search.

Peerman asked if the girl would also have to be searched, which led to mixed reactions.

According to the report, the guards initially said that the girl would not need to be fully searched, but a captain then gave an overriding order for her to be included in the check. Peerman and the girl were then informed that if they did not participate in the strip-search, they would be banned from the state prison for any further visits.

Peerman said:

“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. That’s when she starting crying.”

According to the report, Peerman informed the guards that she was not the girl’s legal guardian, but they demanded she sign a waiver of consent for the minor anyway.

State policy allows for these searches involving minors when needed, but a legal guardian is always required to be present and sign before that can happen, according to Lisa Kinney, the spokesperson for the Department of Corrections.

Kinney said:

“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.”

Kinney also added that the staffer who made the decision for the girl to be strip-searched didn’t have the authority in the correctional facility.

As a result of the search, no items were found in the girl’s or in Peerman’s possession, or in Peerman’s car. To make matters worse, they were able to visit the girl’s father that day, but they had to settle for a no-contact visit through a pane of glass.

It’s been included in the report, as well, that the girl suffers from bipolar disorder, depression and ADHD. As a result of this incident, she has struggled to cope and has missed multiple days of school.

Her mother shared that she would not be taking her daughter back to the prison anytime soon if it meant subjecting her to these conditions.

Her mother said:

“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.”

Many have taken to Twitter to share their distaste for the situation.

While it’s no secret that a prisoner, if desperate enough, will have items smuggled in through any means necessary, it’s still difficult to think of someone involving a child.

It’s unclear how extensive the investigation will be, beyond taking action against the staffer who made the decision to strip-search the girl, but hopefully, improvements will be made to the searching protocol, so something like this doesn’t happen again.

McKenzie Lynn Tozan

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.