A frightened eight year-old girl was made to strip naked for a search during a trip to visit her dad.
The unnamed girl was forced to take her clothes off at Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Virginia, after being told refusal would see her barred from visiting her dad.
After taking all her clothes off in a bathroom, two female guards made her bend over and cough, while her dad’s horrified girlfriend Diamond Peerman looked on.
She texted her mom a distressed text after the November 24 incident, writing: ‘Hey Mom am so mad the jail had to strip me with all of clothes off this doesn’t make no sinc (sic).’
Her mom replied asking the child if they’d made her take her pants off, prompting her to reply ‘Yes all of my clothes off.’
The girl had been visiting the jail with Peerman, who is not her legal guardian, The Virginian Pilot reported.
Peerman told the Pilot that staff had initially said the child wouldn’t need to be searched – only to then turn around and say she had to undergo a full strip search.
She said the girl then asked her what strip search meant.
Peerman, who was also strip-searched, continued: ‘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.’
The girl stopped crying before being searched, which saw her taken to a bathroom by two female guards.
After being made to do the cough test, she was gradually handed back her clothing piece by piece, with one of the officers asking the girl how old she was.
Peerman was disgusted by the question, and recalled: ‘I just looked at her and I’m like, “That’s not even appropriate to be asking her right now.
‘”Why would you ask that when she’s naked?”‘
Officers did not find any contraband on Peerman or the girl, but refused to let them have a ‘contact’ visit with the child’s dad, and made her talk to him from behind glass.
The youngster’s mom, who has not been named to protect her daughter’s identity, says the child has been ‘traumatized’ by the ordeal and has missed school as a result.
She added: ‘She’s a minor, she’s a girl…
‘She gets emotional. She will break down.’
Virginia Department of Corrections spokesman Lisa Kinney has said the search should not have been authorized.
She told 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.
‘Our procedure states that only a parent or legal guardian can approve the strip search of a minor; in this case the adult visitor who signed the consent for the minor to be strip searched wasn’t the minor’s parent or legal guardian.
‘The staff member who authorized the search of the minor following a K-9 alert didn’t have the authority to do so.
‘We take this matter very seriously and as mentioned above will be taking immediate disciplinary action against the person responsible.’