Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia on Friday ordered the suspension of a policy that allows prison officials to strip-search children after a report that an 8-year-old girl was told to remove her clothes before being allowed to see her father, an inmate.
“I am deeply disturbed by these reports, not just as governor, but as a pediatrician and a dad,” Mr. Northam said in a statement. “I’ve directed the secretary of public safety and homeland security to suspend this policy while the department conducts an immediate investigation and review of their procedures.”
The child had gone to Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Va., on the Sunday before Thanksgiving to visit her father when officials from the state Department of Corrections told her she would need to be strip-searched, The Virginian-Pilot reported.
The child had come with her father’s girlfriend, Diamond Peerman, who is not the girl’s legal guardian. Prison staff members asked the girl to strip after a dog trained to sniff out drugs had lingered on Ms. Freeman and the child while they waited in a line with other visitors, according to The Pilot.
The girl, who was not identified, asked Ms. Peerman what strip-search means.
“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,’” Ms. Peerman told The Pilot. “That’s when she started crying.”
The child agreed to take off her clothes and was allowed to visit her father, who saw her and Ms. Peerman through a glass partition, according to the newspaper.
Officials at the correctional center could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.
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