Wisconsin Prison Warden Charged After Inmate Deaths, Weeks Before Retirement


The warden and eight staff members of a maximum-security prison in Wisconsin faced charges on Wednesday following the deaths of four inmates over the past year.

Randall Hepp, the warden of Waupun Correctional Institution, along with three staff members, were charged with misconduct in public office, according to Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt. All eight staff members are also facing charges of inmate abuse.

Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt addresses the investigations into four inmate deaths that occurred at Waupun Correctional Institution during a news conference Wednesday, June 5, 2024, in Juneau, Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

“We are operating the oldest prison in the state of Wisconsin in a dangerous and reckless manner,” Schmidt stated during a press conference.

Dean Hoffman, a Waupun inmate, died by suicide in June 2023 after spending nine days in solitary confinement. His daughter subsequently filed a federal lawsuit claiming that prison officials had failed to provide adequate medication and mental healthcare.

In October, Tyshun Lemons died in prison from a fentanyl overdose, and Cameron Williams died of a stroke. Williams’s body was undiscovered for at least 12 hours after his death.

The Waupun Correctional Institution is pictured Wednesday, June 5, 2024, in Waupun, Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

The death of the fourth inmate, Donald Maier, in February was ruled a homicide due to malnutrition and water deprivation, according to Schmidt.

The charges against Hepp and the eight staff members pertain to the deaths of Williams and Maier. If found guilty, Hepp, who announced his retirement last week, could serve up to 3 1/2 years in prison.

The Wisconsin Department of Corrections is probing the prison’s operations, and three of the inmate deaths are subjects of federal lawsuits. In October, a group of inmates filed a lawsuit alleging that the conditions created by a prison lockdown instituted last year amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Schmidt indicated that he could pursue further criminal charges if the state investigation unveils additional evidence.

“There must be accountability and justice,” Governor Tony Evers (D-WI) said. “And I believe accountability and justice insist that both internal and law enforcement investigations must continue until they have been exhaustively and thoroughly completed.”

Audrey Baker
Audrey Baker
Editorial Intern. Previously, Audrey has written for publications such as The Dispatch, The Kenyon Collegian, and The Bakersfield Californian, covering a range of topics including politics, social issues, and campus news. Her work has also been featured in RealClear Education.

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