Warden Among Nine Charged in Wisconsin Prison Scandal Over Inmate Deaths

Eight other people who worked at a Wisconsin jail are being charged with the deaths of two inmates. The sheriff said this was a breach of the state’s duty to care for its prisoners.

Dale Schmidt, the sheriff of Dodge County, told reporters on Wednesday about what he called a long list of problems at Waupun Correctional Institution. He talked about the deaths of four prisoners since July 2023. People were charged with felonies for misconduct in public office and abuse of prisoners in two deaths.

Schmidt said, “As sheriff, I’m mad at how these men were treated and how they died.”

The Associated Press says that Warden Randall Hepp was arrested just hours before the report. Schmidt says that Hepp is charged with criminal misconduct in connection with the death of a mentally ill prisoner who died of not getting enough food and water.

Schmidt said, “The oldest prison in Wisconsin is being run in a dangerous way.” He also said that the care of the prisoners and oversight were not good enough. “People at the top need to take responsibility.”

He asked that the jail system hire more people, train them better, and hold people accountable.

The sheriff, who was there with the district attorney, said that Waupun staff had failed to provide enough cash, medicine, food, and water in several cases. It is said that some records were changed.

The prosecutors said the deaths were caused by carelessness, not murder. Hepp, along with six prison guards and two nurses, was arrested. Most of them were only charged with one death, not both.

Schmidt said that the nine people who were charged turned themselves in on Wednesday morning and went to court for the first time that afternoon. The police said they pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press was told by jail sergeant Chad Riter that Hepp’s lawyer had visited him, but Riter did not know the name of the lawyer. Riter didn’t answer right away when a photographer asked if they could talk to Hepp again.

The AP says that since June 2023, when Dean Hoffman killed himself in solitary confinement, four other prisoners have died at Waupun. Hoffman’s daughter sued the federal government in February, saying that jail staff didn’t give her father enough mental health care and medications. No one was charged with a crime in that case.

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PJ Schoebel, the medical examiner for Dodge County, said that Lemons died of an overdose on acetyl fentanyl, a strong opioid drug, and Williams died of a stroke. A number of prison staff were taken on Wednesday in connection with the death of Williams, but no charges were brought against Lemons.

Schmidt said Williams was having trouble breathing and was lying still on a bed. Staff yelled at him and banged on his door “without getting a response and nothing was done.”

The sheriff said that many runs by staff were skipped or not done well.

Finally, a nurse and a corrections officer agreed that they could go into Williams’ cell. Authorities said that when the nurse came in, she decided that there was no medical need for a check. They also said that the inmate was probably under a lot of medical stress at the time of the choice. Schmidt said that the staff found out he was dead more than 12 hours after he died.

When Donald Maier was found dead in jail in February, more charges were brought against him. The police said he was killed and that staff members killed him by mistreating him. In that case, Hepp is being charged.

The sheriff said that Maier was in a cell with trash on the floor and that he sometimes didn’t have water because it was cut off for different reasons.

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