Resignation of Wisconsin prison warden follows lockdown and ongoing federal smuggling investigation

The warden of a troubled Wisconsin prison has stepped down amidst a state of lockdown, an ongoing federal investigation, and several inmate fatalities.

Waupun Correctional Institution Warden Randall Hepp has announced his resignation, as reported by the Wisconsin State Journal. In an email sent to prison staff, Hepp acknowledged that the decision was not an easy one but believed it would ultimately benefit the institution. He also expressed confidence that the prison has made significant strides in enhancing safety.

The email sent by The Associated Press to state Department of Corrections media officials and Gov. Tony Evers spokesperson, Britt Cudaback on Sunday morning seeking comment did not receive an immediate response.

Brad Mlodzik, formerly the deputy warden at Waupun, is set to assume the role of warden at the facility on June 30, as reported by the State Journal.

The state Department of Corrections was compelled to implement a lockdown at Waupun, Green Bay, and Stanley prisons due to a persistent shortage of guards. In October, inmates from Waupun filed a federal lawsuit, claiming that the conditions they were subjected to were in violation of the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The lawsuit is currently unresolved. Late in November, Stanley prison was able to return to its regular operations. While movement restrictions have been partially lifted at Waupun and Green Bay, some limitations still persist.

In March, Cudaback, Evers’ spokesperson, confirmed that federal authorities are currently investigating a potential smuggling ring that involves employees at Waupun Correctional facility. During multiple sweeps of the prison, it was discovered that individuals were acquiring prohibited items, including cellphones and illegal drugs. As a result of the ongoing investigation, at least 11 prison employees have been suspended since May 2023.

Four inmates have lost their lives at Waupun since June 2023. One inmate took his own life while in solitary confinement, another succumbed to a fentanyl overdose, and a third passed away due to a stroke. The fourth inmate was discovered deceased at the facility in February, and an investigation is currently underway to determine the cause of death. The daughter of the inmate who committed suicide in solitary confinement has taken legal action by filing a federal lawsuit, claiming that the officials at Waupun neglected to offer him sufficient mental health care and medication.

In May 2020, Hepp assumed the role of warden at Waupun. He embarked on his journey in the state prison system back in 1984, starting as a guard at Dodge Correctional Institution.

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