Prison Warden Jailed Following Investigation into Inmate Deaths and Abuse

MADISON, Wis. – The warden of Waupun Correctional Institution, a maximum-security Wisconsin prison, and eight of his staff members faced charges on Wednesday after investigations into the deaths of four inmates over the past year. The investigations revealed troubling details, including one inmate’s death that went undiscovered for at least 12 hours after he passed away.

According to Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt, who led the investigations, Warden Randall Hepp was charged with misconduct in public office, while the other eight staff members faced charges of inmate abuse. Three of the staff members, including two correctional officers and a correctional sergeant, were also charged with misconduct in public office. All nine individuals appeared in court on Wednesday.

Schmidt expressed concerns about the dangerous and reckless manner in which the Waupun facility was being operated, labeling it as the oldest prison in the state of Wisconsin. The investigations uncovered instances where inmates were subjected to neglect, such as having their water turned off for extended periods, lack of proper monitoring, and limited access to medical care.

Hepp, who faces a maximum sentence of 3 1/2 years in prison if convicted, had announced his retirement at the end of June prior to the charges being filed. The prison had been under scrutiny following the deaths of four inmates, with three of the cases resulting in federal lawsuits and ongoing investigations by the Department of Corrections and the U.S. Department of Justice.

The first inmate, Dean Hoffman, took his own life in solitary confinement last June, leading to a lawsuit alleging inadequate mental health care. Tyshun Lemons and Cameron Williams died from an overdose and a stroke, respectively, while Donald Maier’s death was ruled a homicide due to malnutrition and dehydration.

In addition to the inmate deaths, the prison faced allegations of a smuggling ring involving employees, prompting federal investigators to look into the matter. Governor Tony Evers emphasized the need for accountability and justice, stating that those who failed to fulfill their duties would be held responsible.

The state Department of Corrections implemented lockdowns at several prisons, including Waupun, Green Bay, and Stanley, due to guard shortages, leading to inmates’ claims of cruel and unusual punishment. While restrictions have eased at some facilities, concerns remain regarding the conditions within the state’s prison system.

Calls to close the aging prisons in Waupun and Green Bay were renewed by Republican state lawmakers following the charges filed against the warden and staff members. The incidents at Waupun Correctional Institution highlight the ongoing challenges faced by the state’s correctional system and the need for comprehensive reforms to ensure the safety and well-being of inmates.