Sex Offenders Not Worthy of Being Saved from Hurricane Irma

Commentary about Polk County, Florida banning Registered Sex Offenders from Storm Shelters:

I was so bothered by this that I had to write a blog concerning Polk County, Florida and their denial of allowing Registered Sex Offenders/Predators into their storm shelters during Hurricane Irma’s landfall (currently predicated to reach Southern Florida this Sunday).

Metamora Films

Polk County Sheriff, Grady Judd

As a filmmaker and an individual promoting equality among all people, I have to personally express my anger with Governor, Rick Scott and the Polk County Sheriff, Grady Judd.  Here is the sheriff’s office tweet from today:

“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,” People with warrants were also told that they’d be arrested if they showed up at a shelter.

Sheriff Judd also tweeted in order to strengthen his point:  “We cannot and we will not have innocent children in a shelter with sexual offenders & predators. Period.  If you’re a sexual predator and a sexual offender, we’re not going to let you sleep next to any 5- or 6- or 7-year-old babies, period,” Judd said.

Okay.  So let’s get this straight.  EVERYONE ELSE can be saved from a potential devastating hurricane (let’s remember the recent Harvey) except for people with sex offenses and warrants? I knew Florida was extremely inhumane when it comes to registered sex offenders (a more acceptable term is ‘registered citizen’) but this it taking things way too far.

Just to empathize, I’ve written up ten acceptable groups of people that can be housed in a storm shelter in Polk County.  It’s my opinion that ALL people should have the legal right to protection during a catastrophe, but what about the juvenile and adult registered citizens being banned from these shelters?  Because of Sheriff Judd’s decision, they run the risk of being injured or even worse…

  1. Spousal abusers
  2. Neo-Nazi groups
  3. Arsonists
  4. Thiefs
  5. Drug addicts/distributors
  6. Animal abusers
  7. Murders
  8. Prostitutes
  9. Terrorists
  10. Stalkers

Without going into the facts and figures about registered citizens, and their LOW recidivism rates, I’m going to stick with the obvious argument that this is completely inhumane.  Everyone deserves to feel safe during a catastrophe…I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done.  Some people are agreeing with this statement.  These are responses on Twitter against Sheriff’s Judd’s decision:

“You’re a fucking loser… be a decent human being you fucking redneck.” – Alt_Dept of Labor
“You are a public servant. You are in violation of your sacred duty to the citizens you serve. Shame on you.” – Sarah H. Sanders

Look, I understand the safety of our children but banning a certain group of people from safe harbor should be illegal in itself.  And, this isn’t the first time Florida has banned RSO’s from storm shelters:

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Aug 7, 2005 — Sex offenders tracked by the state are banned from public hurricane shelters in Florida under a new policy that allows them to weather the storms in prison instead.

The policy was created to keep sex offenders and predators away from children, said Robby Cunningham, spokesman for the Department of Corrections. Offenders who go to a prison will stay in areas such as visitor or meeting rooms, he said.

Another example of social exclusion. Yes, they were provided shelter but only in a prison setting.  Wrong again Florida.

The news article from 2005 goes on to say:

“Sex offenders have to sign a form that outlines instructions, wear an ID badge, and they can be searched by authorities at any time.”

Randall Marshall, former legal director of the Florida ACLU responded with, “If you take people who have served their sentence and are released from prison and try to (reinstate) themselves in society, the more steps you take to isolate and ostracize them … there are very few options for them to live their lives and not reoffend,” he said.

Why can’t Florida and the rest of the states in our ever growing judgemental country we call America, get this fact through their God damn heads?  The more you isolate, the more likelihood of recidivism and further abuse.

Another issue I want to bring up before I close my post, is that the comment by Sheriff Judd, “We cannot and we will not have innocent children in a shelter with sexual offenders & predators. Period,” is an example of fear mongering and a policy based on misconception. Most registered citizens are NOT predators and aren’t a danger to children, especially in a storm shelter!  Furthermore, there are thousands of juveniles listed on America’s sex offender registry:

“Throughout the United States, children as young as nine years old who are adjudicated delinquent may be subject to sex offender registration laws. For example, in Delaware in 2011, there were approximately 639 children on the sex offender registry, 55 of whom were under the age of 12. . . . A 2009 Department of Justice study, which focused only on sex crimes committed by children in which other children were the victims, found that one out of eight youth sex offenders committing crimes against other children was younger than 12.”  View this report HERE.

So does this mean that Polk County, Florida, which does list juveniles on the sex offender registry, are banning children on the registry protection from Hurricane Irma?

It’s my opinion as a social justice filmmaker that our cities, states and country need to wake up to the fact that hate will get us no where, and that fear is driven by lack of education.  On the other hand, I do have to praise Miami city officials as they have decided not to check ID’s at hurricane shelters.

I urge Sheriff Judd to change his mind on this horrible county policy. You are a public servant.  Please act like one and protect ALL your citizens.

I pray to God that Hurricane Irma weakens as it approaches Southern Florida and the Virgin Islands and no further lives are taken.  But current reports are already saying that Irma is one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Atlantic.

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