In the midst of Irma, one group of citizens gets no shelter

Steve Yoder, a reporter who writes frequently on sex offender issues, sends us this piece:

A potentially catastrophic storm is headed straight at Florida’s mid-section, which includes Polk County south of Orlando. So on Wednesday, county sheriff Grady Judd tweeted a warning — but not about evacuating or finding higher ground.

“If you go to a shelter for #Irma, be advised: sworn LEOs [Law Enforcement Officers] will be at every shelter, checking IDs. Sex offenders/predators will not be allowed.”

You might think that now would be the time for a top cop to put all hands on deck to rescue people who need help. Instead, some portion of Judd’s force will be standing at county shelters to turn away those on the state’s sex offender registry.

A rule like that would sound inhumane even if we had evidence that kids are more at risk in evacuation shelters. But the sheriff didn’t bother to prove that his decree will solve an actual problem. No studies show that children face more danger from sexual abuse and assault at evacuation sites. A comprehensive 2007 paper on sexual assaults during storms noted that “…there is relatively scant data on the vulnerability of evacuees of hurricanes or other disasters to sexual assaults in the United States.”

Worse, the group the sheriff is exiling — “sexual predators” — is a hopeless mélange, encompassing even teen sexters. While much of the public believes that anyone on the registry is an insatiable predator, study after study has shown that 95% will not offend again. A op-ed this January in the Gainesville Sun by a therapist who’s worked with ex-offenders for 20 years explains it best:

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