When child sex offender Kenneth McDonald was released from prison last week, police said there was a high probability that he would reoffend.
He was homeless and his extended supervision had already been revoked on two occasions.
Now, less than 24 hours after his release last week, McDonald, 44, formerly of Mukwonago, was taken back into custody and he is once again under investigation for violating terms of his supervision after he was found near an elementary school in Waukesha.
Sex offenders are generally returned to the county of conviction, except in certain limited circumstances — for example, if they resided in a different county. But, given the fact that he had no permanent or temporary housing option upon his release, what could have been done to prevent a situation in Waukesha that led to his re-arrest so soon?
Part of the problem stems from his own circumstances.
McDonald, a lifetime registered sex offender, was found guilty by Judge Paul Reilly of second-degree sexual assault of a child in 2005.
He had also been charged in 2005 with first-degree sexual assault of a child, but it was dismissed as part of a plea agreement, and a possession of child pornography charge was also dismissed on a prosecutor's motion. According to the Waukesha County Sheriff's Department, McDonald had admitted to possessing hundreds of images of child pornography.
McDonald spent six years in state prison, but his 12-year extended supervision term was revoked in 2011 and 2013 after he failed to report noncriminal sexual behavior that was prohibited by the terms of his supervision.
He served 21 months following the 2011 revocation and another 37 months following the 2013 revocation.
The housing hangup
The Wisconsin Department of Corrections advised McDonald to locate housing on his own upon his release.
Tristan Cook, Wisconsin Department of Corrections spokesman, said while sex offenders are responsible for locating housing upon their release, the DOC works with offenders both before and after their release, and there are emergency and transitional housing options throughout the state.
But sometimes, those options aren't available. Cook said there are 399 sex offenders who are registered as homeless, including nine in Waukesha County.
In McDonald's case no suitable housing was found.
Cook said McDonald first attempted to reside with his family. But due to local sex offender residency ordinances, he was unable to live there.
Rules for his release
He immediately faced some restrictions he couldn't avoid.
Cook said after sex offenders like McDonald are released from prison, a GPS monitoring bracelet is attached to them. That bracelet continually tracks their movements. Sex offenders are made aware of GPS exclusion zones and are responsible for abiding by all federal, state and local laws, he added.
Exclusion zones, set for each sex offender, trigger an alert when the sex offender enters such a zone, which typically include schools, parks, playgrounds, and other areas where children may gather.
Another restriction he faced is tied to local ordinances.
The city of Waukesha passed an ordinance in 2011 that prohibits any sex offender under state supervision from being placed locally unless that person was a permanent resident of the city at the time of the offense.
Before that, the council passed a ban in 2007 on sex offenders from living within 750 feet — labeled as a Child Safety Zone — of a school, park, playground, day care center or recreational trail. The ordinance has also prohibited registered sex offenders from loitering at schools, parks or playgrounds and within 200 feet of day care centers.
All of that meant that McDonald was not free to roam around anywhere in Waukesha, nor could he easily obtain housing locally.
State's reoffending rates
Another concern about McDonald focused on the sheriff's department statement that he was "a serious offender with a high probability to reoffend."
According to court records, McDonald's supervision was revoked twice and required longer prison sentences. In that regard, he bucked a trend that shows recidivism has improved among similar offenders.
A September 2015 sex offender recidivism report released by the DOC summarizes recidivism rates for 12,849 predominantly male sex offenders released from the Wisconsin prison system between 1992 and 2010. According to the report, over that 18-year period the three-year general recidivism rate for sex offenders decreased by 40 percent. Rates of sexual recidivism for this group have also declined over time, with the three-year rate decreasing by 74.1 percent, the report notes.
While there have been no allegations that McDonald was acting on an impulse to reoffend, his presence near a Waukesha school sent him back to jail.
Waukesha police arrested him at 2:32 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, after a resident spotted him walking on Moreland Boulevard near Hawthorne Elementary School.
McDonald is being detained by the DOC for an investigation into the violation of his GPS requirements.