Wisconsin Warden, 8 Staff Charged After Inmate’s Death

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Guards at Wisconsin’s oldest maximum security prison failed to provide basic care to inmates who died on their watch, including one who died of dehydration and another who did not was found for at least 12 hours after he died of a stroke, Authorities announced charges Wednesday against the director and eight members of his staff.

Waupun Correctional Facility Warden Randall Hepp is accused of misconduct in public office. The other eight face charges of mistreating inmates. Three of them are also accused of misconduct.

“We are operating the oldest prison in the state of Wisconsin in a dangerous and reckless manner,” Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt, who led the investigation, said at a news conference announcing the charges.

Hepp faces up to 3 1/2 years in prison if convicted. He announced last week that he planned to retire at the end of June. He said in an email to Waupun staff that he helped improve “safety and order” at the prison.

Hepp’s attorney, Robert Webb, declined to comment.

Three of the four deaths are the subject of federal prosecution. The state Department of Corrections is investigating the operation of the prison, and the governor last year asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate contraband at the facility.

Department of Corrections Secretary Jared Hoy said in a statement that more than 20 people remain under internal investigation, at least eight are on leave and nine others have been fired or taken on leave. their retirement since the investigation began a year ago. Hoy asked the sheriff to keep his investigation open and share all his findings. Schmidt said he could reopen the investigation if the internal probe uncovers additional evidence.

The first of the four inmates to die, Dean Hoffman, committed suicide in solitary confinement last June. Hoffman’s daughter filed a federal lawsuit in February alleging that prison officials failed to provide her father with adequate mental health care and medication.

Tyshun Lemons and Cameron Williams were both found dead at the facility in October. Dodge County Medical Examiner PJ Schoebel said Lemons overdosed on acetylfentanyl, a powerful opioid painkiller, and Williams died of a stroke.

Donald Maier was found dead at the prison in February. Schmidt ruled his death a homicide due to malnutrition and dehydration.

All charges relate to the deaths of Williams and Maier.

Williams told an inmate advocate three days before his death that he needed to go to the hospital, but no action was taken, according to a criminal complaint. He had fallen in the shower and had to crawl to his cell two days earlier, and a day before that he had collapsed while returning to his cell, but neither fall was documented, according to the complaint .

He died of a stroke in October. 29, but his body was not discovered until late the next morning, at least 12 hours after his death, according to the complaint. The nurse, sergeant and lieutenant charged in his death never checked on him that night, the complaint says.

Maier suffered from serious mental health issues, but he refused or did not receive his medication in the eight days before his death, according to a separate complaint.

One inmate’s investigators said Maier flooded his cell, causing guards to turn off his water. Six days before his death, he told a staff member that he “wanted water, water, water, all the water in the world” and acted as if he was swimming around his cell. Guards also saw him drinking from his toilet, the complaint states.

The guards said they turned the water off and on for Maier, but investigators said no one ever told her when it was on, according to the complaint. The guards also did not bring him food in the four days before his death, according to the complaint.

When asked if his employees understood the prison’s water shut-off policy, Hepp told them that the policies were sent by email, but he believed that no one at any facility really read them and that no A prison in the United States did not document every inmate meal.

Attorney Mark Hazelbaker represents Gwendolyn Vick, a nurse accused of abuse in connection with Williams’ death. According to the complaint, a nurse from a previous shift told her that Williams was lying on the floor of his cell, but she never checked on him. She told investigators she told guards she wasn’t sure it was necessary to enter her cell because Williams was still trying to get to the hospital, according to the complaint.

Hazelbaker said Vick was “very sad” that four people died in prison, but that she was not responsible for anyone’s death. She has the right to be heard on issues related to the provision of health care in prison, he said, adding that the real incompetence lies with the Department of Corrections, which has failed to staff properly staff and replace aging prisons.

Waupun had a vacancy rate of 43 percent at the end of May, according to agency data.

“I cannot emphasize enough that this is a system failure of massive proportions,” Hazelbaker said. “It’s dangerous. People don’t want to work there.

Waupun’s problems extend beyond inmate deaths. Governor. Tony Evers’ office said in March that federal investigators Investigation into alleged smuggling network involving prison staff.

Evers said Wednesday, in response to the charges filed, that anyone who failed to do their job would be held accountable.

Republican lawmakers renewed calls Wednesday for Evers to close the Waupun prison as well as another maximum security prison in Green Bay. Both prisons were built in the 1800s.

“Tony Evers can’t bury his head in the sand anymore,” the state senator said. Van Wanggaard, chairman of the Senate committee overseeing state prisons.

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