updated 8/7/2005 5:18:42 PM ET 2005-08-07T21:18:42

Sex offenders tracked by the state are banned from public hurricane shelters in Florida under a new policy that lets 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.

“They are not incarcerated,” Cunningham said Saturday. “We don’t want them on the streets. We don’t want them violating their probation either.”

The policy only affects sex offenders under state supervision who are not allowed near children. They can go to a prison if their evacuation address given to authorities can’t be used or is deemed unacceptable, Cunningham said. He did not know how many sex offenders could be affected.

The policy took effect at the beginning of hurricane season, June 1. Six offenders stayed in prisons during Hurricane Dennis in July.

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, legal director of the Florida ACLU, said the policy could push sex offenders out of the supervision of authorities.

“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.

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