8-year-old reportedly strip-searched during prison visit

Virginia's governor on Friday ordered the suspension of a Department of Corrections policy after an 8-year-old was reportedly strip-searched when attempting to visit her father in prison last month.

"I am deeply disturbed by these reports — not just as Governor, but as a pediatrician and a dad,” Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, tweeted Friday.

He said that he had 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."

On Thursday, The Virginian-Pilot newspaper reported that an 8-year-old girl was stripped and searched by a Virginia Department of Corrections staff while visiting her father at Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn.

The girl, who was accompanied by her father’s girlfriend, was led to believe that refusing the search would result in her not being allowed to see her dad, the newspaper reported.

An email seeking comment from the Department of Corrections was not immediately returned Friday night.

Lisa Kinney, the department's director of communications, told the newspaper that the staff member who approved the search did not have that authority. She called it "deeply troubling" and said it "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," she said.

The search is said to have happened Nov. 24. The girl’s mother told The Virginia-Pilot that her daughter "was traumatized."

Related: Oklahoma prison release 

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Sally Taylor, left, and Sarah Taylor, right, wait for their granddaughter and niece, Tess Harjo, to walk out of Eddie Warrior Correctional Center Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sally Taylor, left, embraces her granddaughter Tess Harjo, right, after Harjo was released from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Tess Harjo walks out of the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma first lady Sarah Stitt speaks following the release of female inmates from Eddie Warrior Correctional Center Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Inmates being released from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center walk through the gate at the prison, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Recently released inmate Donnie Crow, right, holds her 17-month-old son Fayedon Davis as she celebrates with Christopher Davis Sr. and son 32-month old Christopher Davis II following her release Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks following the release of 70 inmates from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Recently released inmate Donnie Crow, left, holds her 17-month-old son Fayedon Davis as she walks from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center with Christopher Davis Sr. and son 32-month old Christopher Davis II, following her release Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Inmates being released from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center walk through a line of inmates that are a part of the Regimented Treatment Program at the prison, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Inmates being released from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center walk through a line of inmates that are a part of the Regimented Treatment Program at the prison, Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Danni Sloan Roberts, right, embraces her sister Sydney Roberts, left, after being released from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Tess Harjo, right, embraces her aunt Sarah Taylor, left, after being released from Eddie Warrior Correctional Center Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oklahoma First Lady Sarah Stitt speaks following the release of female inmates from Eddie Warrior Correctional Center Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Recently released inmate Donnie Crow, right, holds her 17-month-old son Fayedon Davis as she walks from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center with Christopher Davis Sr. and son 32-month old Christopher Davis II, following her release Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Taft, Okla. More than 450 inmates walked out the doors of prisons across Oklahoma on Monday as part of what state officials say is the largest single-day mass commutation in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Both the girl and her father's girlfriend were made to remove all their clothes and searched, and their car was examined before they were allowed to have a non-contact visit with the child's father, The Virginian-Pilot reported. No contraband was found.

The girlfriend told the newspaper that the search was ordered after a dog singled her out and that guards initially said the child would not need to be searched but reversed the decision after consulting with a captain. The girlfriend said she was led to believe that they had to consent or the 8-year-old would be prohibited from visiting her father anymore.

The girl's mother plans on filing a lawsuit, the newspaper reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia tweeted that Northam was right to suspend the policy.

"We're pleased that the government is taking steps to protect children from invasive, humiliating strip searches so that this never happens again to another child," the civil liberties group said.

Dillwyn is a town of around 500 around 35 miles south of Charlottesville.

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