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Waupun Prison Protest; Inmates ask for better after staffers are arrested

WAUPUN, Wis.Inmates at Waupun Correctional Institution staged a sit-in protest on Thursday, June 6, against the conditions of their incarceration.

They said conditions have not improved since the director and eight other employees were arrested on Wednesday.

While it’s quiet outside the walls of Wisconsin’s oldest prison, inside inmates like Shawn Rowsey and Jermaine Smith-Capoeira tell a very different story.

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“The northwest cell hall is having a peaceful protest outside, and they are not going back to their cells,” Rowsey said.

On Wednesday, Dodge County Sheriff Dale Schmidt announced criminal charges against the former warden and eight other employees for failing to meet the basic needs of inmates who died in their care.

Smith-Capoeira, who is serving a life sentence, said prisoners are given cold meals and denied access to proper medical care.

“They say we’re taking advantage of the situation because we saw the director on the news yesterday,” Smith-Capoeira said. “The only thing we specifically want is for the prison to function normally again.”

Attorney Lonnie Story is representing current inmates and the families of some who died in prison in separate lawsuits.

“They were sentenced to prison,” Story said. “They were not condemned to a life of hell, and they were not condemned to a life of deprivation, abuse and neglect.”

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He said the state should close the facility in favor of a different, more modern approach.

“It was established 10 years before the Civil War and is literally registered as a national historic site,” Story said.

The most recent data available shows that approximately 43% of positions at Waupun Correctional remain open. FOX6 News reached out to the Department of Corrections for comment on the protest but did not hear back.

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