Sept. 10–A Florida sheriff whose message to registered sex offenders was previously to flee the state during Hurricane Irma said Saturday his office set up a safe place to stay during the storm.
Twenty-one sex offenders in Polk County are being sheltered in an area of the jail that is not behind bars, and they are not in custody, Sheriff Grady Judd said.
“Of course we’re not going to leave anybody out in the storm,” Judd said.
Judd got national attention after he tweeted a warning Wednesday that those with outstanding warrants who sought shelter would be “gladly” escorted to jail. Judd followed with another tweet saying the county “cannot and we will not have innocent children in a shelter with sexual offenders (and) predators.”
That was their warning, Judd said Saturday.
“We got our brains beat out for it but we still gave them a warning,” Judd said. “Well of course they still didn’t pay any attention.”
One sex offender sought refuge at a public shelter, Judd said. The other 20 were advised to evacuate because their homes were deemed unsafe for the storm, Judd said. The county’s probation and parole office contacted those people and gave them the option to stay in the jail shelter the sheriff’s office set up Saturday morning.
They are not with other inmates and they are free to leave any time, Judd said.
Before Saturday, Polk County was the only one in the region that said it did not have a facility set up for sex offenders. Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Carrie Hortsman said the county was advising registered sex offenders to go to Pasco County, that had a special shelter. Or, they could leave the state, she said.
“I mean there are hotels and motels available,” Horstman said. “… A lot of people have been leaving the state, so they can also flee north.”
Staff writer Christal Hayes contributed to this report. email@example.com or 407-420-5417 or Twitter @KMTorralva
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