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HomeBreaking NewsTony Evers' Nightmare: 9 Arrested, Including Warden, as Corrections Melts Down

Tony Evers’ Nightmare: 9 Arrested, Including Warden, as Corrections Melts Down

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“There needs to be some responsibility from the top down,” Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt.

Gov. Tony Evers’ Department of Corrections has melted down in nightmarish – and deadly – fashion. Nine State of Wisconsin employees, including the warden of a major state prison in Waupun, were arrested in connection with two prison deaths, the Dodge County Sheriff announced.

And he says the problems in Corrections aren’t limited to one prison.

In one case, an inmate drank sewage water and played in the toilet, dying of probable dehydration and malnutrition, Sheriff Dale Schmidt said. The inmate’s death was ruled a homicide. Staff didn’t give him multiple meals and shut off water in his cell, Schmidt said. The inmate has been named as Donald Maier, who was convicted of stabbing a man to death as he slept in 1985.

Randall hepp
Former warden randall hepp

In another case, an inmate, who died of a stroke, was not checked on, as required, and lay dead for over 12 hours in his cell before being discovered, Schmidt said, adding that he was “angry how these men were treated and how they died.” He has been named as Cameron Williams, 24. His family told WBAY-TV that they were “outraged by the circumstances and say his death should not have happened.”

The Department of Corrections, which is in charge of the prison system, is run by a cabinet-level position directly under the governor’s authority. Then Corrections Secretary Kevin Carr did not take personal responsibility, but shifted blame, Schmidt said. The warden by statute is responsible for the safety and security of the prison, Schmidt said, so the highest person charged was former Waupun warden Randall Hepp.

Wisconsin warden arrested
Ballotpedia chart

The dramatic arrests, which made national news, came after a series of serious mismanagement problems in Evers’ Corrections Department, including soaring staffing shortages, an over-capacity prison with “deplorable” conditions, massive early releases of inmates who often re-offend, a failure to revoke thousands of offenders who commit new crimes while out on probation or parole supervision, a systemic failure to notify victims’ families of murderers’ parole releases, and high-level staff turnover.

“There needs to be some responsibility from the top down,” Schmidt said. “And it’s clear that there wasn’t.” Three days after Schmidt spoke to Carr about the accusations, he resigned, Schmidt said, noting that he did not believe this was a coincidence.

Schmidt questioned why the governor won’t support building a new state prison, which he believes would “save lives” and “provide for more humane treatment of inmates.” He said that two outdated prisons could be combined into one. PBS reported that Evers hinged building a new prison on “broader criminal justice reform.”

Schmidt said he hoped the governor and Secretary of Corrections would take concerns seriously. He said that was their responsibility.

Similar incidents occurred in Green Bay Correctional Institution, but no criminal charges were given, Schmidt said. “This is not isolated to one facility in the Department of Correction,” said Schmidt. He added that the Department of Corrections should implement all jail standards. He said new efforts should be made to stop contraband from entering state prisons.

Jeramie chalker
Jeramie chalker

Schmidt said in a news release that four prison deaths have occurred since June 29, 2023, at Waupun Correctional Institution, a State of Wisconsin Prison, which is located in Dodge County. “Nine State of Wisconsin Employees have been arrested in connection with two of the four deaths,” he wrote. “After consultation with the Dodge County District Attorney’s Office, no charges will be filed at this time in the other two deaths.”

The following individuals have all been arrested for the following offenses, Schmidt says:

Abuse of Residents of Penal Facilities – Wisconsin Statute 940.29 – Class I Felony

Gwendolyn Peachey (Vick) – Age 50 of Burnett – Registered Nurse

Gwendolyn peachey (vick)
Gwendolyn peachey (vick)

Brandon Fisher – Age 29 of Fox Lake – Correctional Lieutenant – 2 Counts

Brandon fisher
Brandon fisher

Tanner Leopold – Age 27 of Waupun – Correctional Sergeant

Tanner leopold
Tanner leopold

Jamall Russel – Age 39 of Beaver Dam – Correctional Officer

Jamall russel
Jamall russel

Alexander Hollfelder – Age 31 of Waupun – Correctional Sergeant

Alexander hollfelder
Alexander hollfelder

Jessica Hosfelt – Age 47 of Oshkosh – Registered Nurse

Jessica hosfelt
Jessica hosfelt

Misconduct in Public Office – Wisconsin Statute 946.12(1) – Class I Felony

Jamall Russel – Age 39 of Beaver Dam – Correctional Officer

Jamall russel
Jamall russel

Sarah Ransbottom – Age 35 of Oshkosh – Correctional Officer

Sarah ransbottom
Sarah ransbottom

Jeramie Chalker – Age 41 of Brandon – Correctional Sergeant

Jeramie chalker
Jeramie chalker

Randall Hepp – Waupun Correctional Institution Warden

“As a reminder, all persons are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law,” Schmidt said.

In a press conference, Schmidt said:

The first decedent died of an apparent suicidal action, Schmidt said in the press conference. For days, he did not receive medication, the sheriff said. Staff were not required to wear body cameras. However, it was not clear whether he refused medication or was not given it. Documentation of medication distribution was inaccurate, he said. There was “inadequate distribution of medication to the inmate” and inadequate documentation, he said. This inmate was named as Dean Hoffman.

Decedent two died of a drug overdose from fentanyl use, Schmidt said. The quantity and frequency of smuggled contraband is concerning and continues to be investigated, he said. No charges have been filed in this case. This inmate has been named as Tyshun Lemons.

Decedent three, Cameron Williams, died of a stroke. He had multiple medical episodes with no intervention, the sheriff said. Loud, labored breathing, lying on a bed with no response or movement are among the episodes, Schmidt said. “No action was taken,” he said. He said he was in his cell dead for over 12 hours without being discovered, Schmidt said.

Decedent four, Donald Maier, died of maltreatment from staff. He was found in his cell with a strong odor and garbage strewn around. He had mental health issues. Water had been turned off, which can be legitimate, but the reasons were not documented. A significant amount of time passed before his body was discovered.

Donald maier
Donald maier

Required rounds were not conducted, but staff initialed that rounds were completed when they were not, the sheriff said. Staff noticed the inmate’s condition was deteriorating rapidly but did not get him medical attention, Schmidt said. Nine out of 12 meals over a four-day period were not given to the inmate, and he was not given water for a significant period of time, Schmidt said. He was drinking sewer water and playing in the toilet, Schmidt said.

Internal affair investigations were conducted remotely, he said. There was a lack of consistent staffing, with staff being brought in from all over the state and a lack of accountability, the sheriff said.

Jared Hoy, the new Corrections secretary, wrote in a news release that the agency has asked for the investigation to be held open.

“As a result of the DOC’s internal investigations at WCI that initially began in March 2023, over 20 individuals remain under internal investigation. An additional nine individuals, against whom criminal charges have not been filed at this time, are no longer employed at the department,” he wrote. “An additional at least eight individuals at WCI remain on administrative leave based on DOC’s internal investigations, and we anticipate additional individuals will be placed on administrative leave, may be terminated, and potentially referred for criminal charges pending the conclusion of DOC’s internal or other law enforcement investigations, which remain ongoing.”

Problems in Wisconsin’s prisons are nothing new. In 2001, Jessica McBride, now of Wisconsin Right Now, and Mary Zahn, wrote a national award-winning series for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporting that prison inmates were dying of treatable ailments due to deficiencies in prison healthcare.

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