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3 inmates have died during Waupun ‘lockdown’; Families push for answers

<i>WISN</i><br/>Dean Hoffmann spent 80 days inside Waupun Correctional Institution
Dean Hoffmann spent 80 days inside Waupun Correctional Institution

By James Stratton

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    WAUPUN, Wisconsin (WISN) — Dean Hoffmann spent 80 days inside Waupun Correctional Institution, inside what inmates and their families call a lockdown. His family says he was found dead, hanging in his cell, on June 29.

Two other inmates, Tyshun Lemons and Cameron Williams, also died in the prison in October.

Records obtained by Hoffmann’s family appear to show Hoffmann did not have a psychological evaluation because of what the Department of Corrections calls “restricted movement.” In May, he did not receive that treatment due to movement restrictions, despite receiving other medical evaluation. Records show he was receiving medication, Hoffmann was bipolar and was in prison for serious domestic abuse charges. However, in the final days, records show he refused some of his medication.

“He would have gotten help, had he been able to, and he was unable to,” said Megan Kolb, Hoffmann’s daughter. “He was calling out for help and they were not helping him.”

Hoffmann was placed in restrictive housing, often called solitary confinement, for nine days before his death, his family says. Records show he was placed in the restrictive housing unit because he wanted to leave his cell due to being threatened by other inmates. Records also show officers would not grant the movement, and Hoffmann refused to go back to his cell. Records also show Hoffmann was seen by a psychological services unit worker on June 26, while in restrictive housing, but a report about the visit wasn’t written until after he died. The report states he did not have any indication of self harm and denied having any concerns.

Hoffmann’s family has protested with others in Madison in recent weeks, wanting answers for them and others.

“We’ve had three deaths in that prison, and declaration they’re going to make changes, but nothing is done yet,” said Deb Hoffmann, Dean’s ex-wife and best friend. “How many more are to come? That’s what I’m afraid of.”

The lockdown at Waupun and Green Bay Correctional facilities are working to be lifted, Gov. Tony Evers announced changes less than a month after a federal lawsuit was filed alleging conditions in Waupun were cruel and unusual punishment.

The changes to those prisons include reducing the use of solitary confinement, and transitioning Waupun to single-cell housing, aiming to take the pressure off of an understaffed prison.

At Waupun, visitors are restricted from visiting inmates, and recreation time and and “personal hygiene frequency” are suspended because the prison is short-staffed.

Inmates inside Waupun have described conditions that they say violate their human rights.

Wisconsin DOC has repeatedly told WISN 12 News that inmates are receiving medical care inside the prison. DOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

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