Sunday, January 1, 2017

An unusual headline: on the settlement of a sex offender in a rural place

After the 2016 election, I decided it would be a good idea to follow a wider array of news sources and commentators on Twitter, to get out of my liberal blue bubble.  Not sure why, but one that came across my Twitter feed was the Grand Forks Herald, out of Grand Forks, North Dakota (home of the University of North Dakota and the third largest metropolitan area in the state).  The most memorable item I have seen on the news website until recently was this video of an ice-covered ship coming into the harbor of Duluth, Minnesota.  That was the most memorable item, anyway, until I saw this a few days ago: "Registered Sex Offender Moving to Rural Erskine, Minnesota."  You will no doubt--like me--want to know the population of Erskine.  It is 503, and Erskine is part of the Grand Forks, ND-MN Metropolitan Area.  Here is the story, accompanied by a photo of the man:
A Level 3 predatory sex offender will be living in the rural Erskine, Minn., area, according to a statement by the Polk County Sheriff's Office Thursday.

According to the state Department of Corrections, Lonny Jerome Cote, 61, has a registered address of U.S. Highway 59 Southeast in the Erskine area. He has a history of sexual contact with female victims between the ages of 4 and 14. 
Representatives of the Sheriff's Office and the Department of Corrections will be available at a community notification meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m., Jan. 5 at the Erskine Community Center, 105 Ross Ave.
I was surprised at this very public announcement of the location of the sex offender, and it reminded me of some cases I read a few years ago (when I started writing about rural-urban difference in relation to the law) about the old practice of banishment as punishment--effectively casting out members of society, typically into sparsely populated spaces, relegating them to the rural, if you will.  

Now this in relation to sex offender registries and rurality:  I know that information about the location of sex offenders is intended to be public, but I wonder how often it is so prominently displayed in newspapers, be they rural or urban.  In a rural community, of course, it may be harder for a registered sex offender to situate himself as far away from schools as the law requires--unless he is in open space, the countryside, and not in a small town. 

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