Florida Sheriff Warns Fugitives They’ll Be Jailed if They Seek Shelter

As Hurricane Irma churns towards Florida, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department sent out a series of tweets Wednesday telling those with outstanding warrants that they will be sent to jail if they turn up at a storm shelter. The tweets used cheeky language—“we’ll gladly escort you”—as a guise for a policy that will likely risk lives. Floridians who stand to be jailed may simply choose not to seek shelter in the midst of a Category 5 storm. If that happens, Carrie Horstman, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s office said, the fault won’t lie with authorities. “I don’t know at this point what this storm will do,” she told The Daily Beast. “We are trying to give people a heads up as many days in advance as possible to prepare of this storm.” In an interview, Horstman further explained that it was policy to check IDs at the shelter doors to prevent sex offenders from getting to 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.”

—Sam Stein