Reports of Virginia prison staff strip-searching an 8-year-old girl visiting her incarcerated father prompted outrage Thursday, leading state officials to suspend all such searches of minors on Friday.
The Virginian-Pilot was the first to share text messages the child sent her mother about the incident at Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, where she went to visit her father with his girlfriend on Nov. 24. In order to see him, prison staff made her strip down completely naked.
“Hey Mom, am so mad the jail had to strip me with all of my clothes off this doesn’t make no sinc (sic)” the girl texted.
Her mother told the outlet that the girl was especially haunted by the strip search because she lives with bipolar disorder, depression and ADHD.
“She’s a minor, she’s a girl. She was traumatized,” her mother said. “She gets emotional, she will break down.”
The Virginian-Pilot did not publish the names of the girl, her mother and her father in order to protect the privacy of a minor.
The Virginia Department of Corrections said the ordeal never should have happened.
“It is deeply troubling and represents a breach in our protocol,” DOC Director of Communications Lisa Kinney said in a statement to HuffPost. “We sincerely apologize to this child and her family and will be taking immediate disciplinary action against the person responsible.”
Strip searches of minors are “extremely rare,” she said, and in this instance the staffer who signed off on it did not get the proper consent to conduct one.
“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,” Kinney said. “The staff member who authorized the search of the minor following a K-9 alert didn’t have the authority to do so.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) on Friday said he’s taking steps to suspend strip searches of minors while an investigation into the policy occurs.
“I am deeply disturbed by these reports — not just as governor but as a pediatrician and a dad,” he said in a statement to The Virginian-Pilot. “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.”
For now, the 8-year-old won’t be able to see her dad anymore, the girl’s mother told The Virginian-Pilot.
“Her and her dad have a good relationship ... because she gets to go see him every weekend,” she said. “But, at the same time, she went through something that traumatized her. I’m not sending her back there.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.