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Lawmakers demand changes after Waupun prison arrests, charges

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(The Center Square) – Wisconsin lawmakers say the governor needs to do something after nine former workers at the prison in Waupun, including the former warden, have been charged for the deaths of two inmates.

Prosecutors in Dodge County filed the charges Wednesday against former Warden Randall Hepp. He and eight others are facing charges of official misconduct and abuse of residents of a penal facility.

“Waupun has seen preventable prison deaths, rampant drug and contraband dealing, and a year-long lockdown. The warden may have been arrested, but the buck doesn’t stop there,” Sen Van Wangaarrd, R-Racine, said. “Tony Evers can’t keep his head in the sand anymore. Waupun and Green Bay Correctional need to be replaced. He knows it. The Department, the guards and even the inmates know it.”

The two inmate deaths are among four at the prison in Waupun in the past two years. One of the deaths has been ruled a homicide. Investigators say the inmate died from dehydration after the water was shut off in his cell. The other inmate died from a rare stroke after witnesses say he cried for help for hours.

Representative David Steffen, R-Howard, also blamed Evers and called for the prison in Waupun to be closed and replaced.

“Lack of leadership and accountability have resulted in failing prison facilities. What do failing prison facilities look like? Extended lockdowns, overcrowded, short-staffed, unhygienic, unsafe, federal investigations…and the list goes on. Conditions, especially at Green Bay and Waupun, are ripe for tragedy. This is unacceptable. Gov. Evers must step up and begin actively addressing the failures within our corrections system, starting with the closure of these two facilities,” Steffen added.

Democratic lawmakers also expressed their disappointment after Wednesday’s arrests and charges,

“‘People in Our Care’ is not an accurate representation of the treatment and conditions that people who are currently incarcerated in Wisconsin are subjected to. Advocates and news outlets have been warning about the overcrowding and abuses occurring in Wisconsin’s jail and prisons for years, yet things continue to get worse,” Rep. Darrin Madison, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement.

The arrests and charges at the prison come after a months-long federal investigation and demands from prison reformers for changes.

Evers has not said anything about the arrest or charges, or any possible changes he wants within Wisconsin’s prison system.

Republican leaders at the Capitol however have said they plan to use their legislative committees to look “further into the problems caused by the lack of leadership” from Evers and prison managers in the state.

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