Woman claims prison officer inappropriately touched her during security pat down

Woman claims prison officer inappropriately touched her during security pat down

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - FEB. 16 UPDATE: The commonwealth's attorney says there is not enough evidence to move the case forward, but the ban continues.

ORIGINAL REPORT:

A Chesterfield mother trying to visit her son in prison claims a routine pat down from a correctional officer went too far.

Marla Crawford complained to the Department of Corrections, only to be told within days, she's no longer able to visit her son.

Please be advised, some of the language in this report is disturbing.

Crawford says her experience left her humiliated and violated, forcing her to get counseling. She took the issue to Virginia State Police, but since VSP has no oversight over the Department of Corrections, she had to go back to the DOC.

"I've been stripped of my child again," Marla Crawford said.

For more than a decade, Crawford has visited her son at the Deep Meadow Correctional Center, but back in October, she says something strange happened when she went through security.

"As she was patting me down my leg, her hands went up to into my vagina, and I thought immediately maybe it was a mistake, because I had never experienced that in 14-and-a-half years," Crawford said.

"She touched that area?" NBC12 asked for clarity.

"She touched that area," Crawford said.

She came back to see her son the following week.

"On the 7th, when I went back to visit again, she touched that area again, and then she told me to shake my boobies, and she took her hands and she flicked the left side of my breast," Crawford alleges.

That's when she says she reported it to a supervisor.

"He says 'oh, she's very good and she confiscates a lot of our drugs,'" Crawford said.

Two weeks later, she returned only to find the same correctional officer was there.

"Before going into this facility, I advised them that I'm not going to let her touch me again," she said.

That's when another officer offered to do the pat down. After Crawford finished visiting her son, she said she was told:

"They banned me for six months," she said.

She claims it is retaliation for reporting the officer, so she had an attorney get involved.

"The decision made regarding Ms. Crawford's visiting privileges had nothing to do with the accusations made on her behalf, but solely on the disruptive behavior she displayed instead…" prison officials wrote in a letter given to Crawford's attorneys.

In that correspondence, prison officials say they reviewed surveillance video, which reinforced their decision. Crawford says she was never disruptive and asked to look at the video, but she was told she couldn't, because it's being used in the investigation.

"I want them to apologize. I want them to allow me to see my son…I feel like they're treating me as the person who committed the offense and treating her as if she were the victim," Crawford said.

She's now calling for that officer to be removed. After going back and forth with the prison, Crawford says this month officials finally offered to let her visit her son - but through a glass where they could only talk by phone. She says that would involve moving him to a separate facility.

The limited-contact restriction remains in place until the end of April.

A Virginia DOC spokesperson says, "In order to keep offenders and staff safe from illegal contraband, including extremely dangerous drugs and weapons, every visitor goes through the same frisk search procedure when visiting an offender incarcerated in a Virginia prison. Staff receive the same frisk search."

The spokesperson says Crawford's visitation suspension "had nothing to do with a search."

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