POLK COUNTY, Fla. – The Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Florida has offered a safe place for wanted people to stay when Hurricane Irma arrives. Jail!
“If you go to a shelter for #Irma and you have a warrant, we’ll gladly escort you to the safe and secure shelter called the Polk County Jail.”
These are the words of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Winter Haven, which tweeted out a series of warnings as the state prepares for the arrival of Hurricane Irma.
— Polk County Sheriff (@PolkCoSheriff) September 6, 2017
In the series of tweets, they simply claimed anyone with a “warrant” would be targeted, and said fugitives should go to jail instead of shelters.
“If you go to a shelter for #Irma, be advised: sworn LEOs will be at every shelter, checking IDs. Sex offenders/predators will not be allowed,” the first tweet reads.
“If you have a warrant, turn yourself in to the jail — it’s a secure shelter,” reads another.
Confused and shocked Twitter users criticized the apparent message: That those with warrants of any kind will be, at least, turned away at shelters, and at worst, arrested, reported CNN.
“Sex offenders don’t necessarily have outstanding warrants,” one critic pointed out.
CNN has contacted the sheriff’s office and was told a public information officer would call back with more information. The Daily Beast spoke with a representative from the sheriff’s office, who said arrest was “a risk a person would run” if they showed up seeking shelter with an outstanding warrant.
The sheriff’s department was criticized for discriminating against sex offenders. In an interview, spokesperson Carrie Horstman further explained that it was policy to check IDs at the shelter doors to prevent sex offenders from getting too close to children.
“While we are checking, if we see someone with an active warrant we have to place them under arrest,” she added. She didn’t seem persuaded by the criticism that this would discourage people from showing up in the first place. “That is a risk a person would run,” Horstman said. “I think it is much safer to be in our jail than to expose yourself to a Category 5 storm. You are using the phrase, ‘people who are scared to go to jail.’ If you have a warrant, legally you should be in jail. You should turn yourself in and be safe in our jail rather than risk your life waiting out a storm.”