A Florida sheriff has found himself in the middle of a lawsuit after threatening to jail criminals seeking shelter from Hurricane Irma, the New York Daily News reports.
The suit, filed Sunday against Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd by Nexus Services, a Virginia-based inmate rights group, calls the policy discriminatory and a violation of Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure, the Orlando Sentinel writes.
The suit comes after Andres Borreno of Virginia tried to enter a shelter on Saturday and was told by Polk County deputies he would first have to submit to a criminal background check.
While the suit does not say if Borreno had an outstanding warrant, according to the report, Judd says Borreno was offered shelter at the jail and was offered a ride. Further, Judd, who calls the suit “frivolous,” agues that his goal was to prevent registered sex offenders from entering shelters. Nexus, however, argues that Florida driver’s licenses already identify sex offenders.
“We check everyone who comes to a shelter to ensure they aren’t a sexual predator or a child sexual offender,” Judd said, writes the Sentinel. “We are absolutely not going to let a sexual predator or a child sexual offender sleep next to a child in a storm shelter.”
Indeed, while unstated, the policy appears to have been directed at people of color. The suit comes at a time when Blacks and Hispanics make up about 56 percent of all incarcerated people in the U.S., although combined they represent 32 percent of the U.S. population, according to 2015 statistics gathered by the NAACP.
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