Waupun prison deaths: Protesters push for accountability, change

Protests formed outside Waupun Correctional Institution on Sunday after criminal charges were filed against the warden and eight other employees.

Four inmates have died at the prison since June 2023. Their deaths sparked an investigation that led to those charges and even lawsuits. Now, family members and others say enough is enough.

Outside the walls of Wisconsin's oldest prison, Megan Hoffman Kolb had something to say. For her, it's personal.

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"It's been 426 days since my dad arrived here," she said. "It’s been 346 days since my dad died here."

Dean Hoffman was the first of the four inmates to die at Waupun Correctional. 


Waupun prison warden, 8 staff members charged following inmate death probe

Guards at Wisconsin's oldest maximum-security prison failed to provide basic care for inmates who died on their watch, authorities said Wednesday in announcing charges against the warden and eight members of his staff.

"It ain't right that mothers and fathers around the state are legitimately petrified that their loved one will be the next to die inside Waupun or Green Bay (Correctional Institution)," said Dant'e Cottingham, who organized Sunday's protest.

The Dodge County Sheriff's Office investigated the prison deaths. Sheriff Dale Schmidt concluded the nine people charged failed to provide basic care to two of the four inmates who died.

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That sparked a second, smaller protest on Sunday. Kara Nelson spoke on behalf of a group of prison employees.

"They did what they could with what they had," she said.

Waupun Correctional Institution

Nelson and others stood in solidarity with the employees who were charged. She said she's all for accountability, but that it should start with those in power.

"They knew about these issues. They chose not to do anything, and if they were doing something behind the scenes, it definitely wasn’t being shown to other people," said Nelson.

Inmates protested on Thursday, holding a sit-in over the conditions of their confinement.