An 8-year-old girl was strip-searched by Virginia correction officials after being told she wouldn’t be allowed to see her dad in jail if she refused. The girl, who visit the Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn was accompanied by her father’s girlfriend. They were both told that refusing the search could result in both of them being banned from the state prison.
Through a statement Diamond Peerman, her father’s girlfriend recalled the incident, saying, “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 started crying.” A Department of Corrections K-9 trained to detect drugs and other contraband had also singled out Peerman, requiring that she be searched by officers.
She then asked if the 8-year-old would need to be stripped down, leading a captain to confirm that she would after guards had initially said no. She then informed the prison guards that she wasn’t the 8-year-old’s legal guardian, but was told to sign a consent form approving the search anyway.
State policy allows for such searching but violates department policy if they are performed without a legal guardian’s consent. Lisa Kinney, a DOC spokesperson stated the incident is troubling and represent a breach in their protocols. She noted, “We sincerely apologize to this child and her family and will be taking immediate disciplinary action against the person responsible.”
The corrections officer who initially authorized the search “didn’t have the authority” to do so, and the search of a minor is extremely rare. As expected, no contraband was found during the searches of both Peerman and the girl. Authorities also searched Peerman’s car and didn’t find any narcotics. They were allowed to meet with the girl’s father before thanksgiving but had to settle for a no-contact visit through a glass.
The girl, who suffers from bipolar disorder, depression and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, was traumatized and has missed school due to the distressing incident. Her mother stated that she will no longer make the trip to visit her dad.