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Woman Strip Searched Before Visiting Her Brother in Virgina Prison

Cynthia Settle

Governor Northam has suspended a policy that allowed strip searches of minors visiting state prisons after a disturbing incident at the Buckingham Correctional Center.  That’s where an 8-year-old girl who’d come to see her father was told she must undergo a search or be barred from future visits. 

It turns out she is not the only one complaining about the treatment of visitors.

Cynthia Settle tries to visit her brother at Buckingham every other week, but those visits don’t always go smoothly.  The first time she recalls being stopped and searched.

“The scanner showed that I had something in my bra, so  they had me step into a room," she recalls. "I had to lift my shirt up and show them it was just the padding in my bra.”

And last month a dog trained to detect drugs took a special interest in Settle.  She told the officer she had three dogs at home – one in heat – but he told her she must undergo a strip search.

“You take everything off, squat and cough – pretty much like you’re an inmate," she explains. 

Guards found nothing,  they did not apologize, and in spite of the failure to find contraband, the prison denied Settle a chance to hug and visit with her brother in a relaxed setting.  Instead, she was allowed to speak with him only thru glass.

“I didn’t drive an hour and a half to look at him through a window," she complains. "I could have sat at home and talked on the telephone with him.”

The Department of Corrections has promised to punish the guard who required a strip search of an 8-year-old girl last month, and the ACLU has said that should never happen, but neither has commented on the treatment of adults visiting relatives or friends behind bars.  

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief