Wisconsin inmate’s daughter files federal suit over solitary confinement suicide

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The daughter of a Wisconsin inmate who killed himself in solitary confinement has filed a federal lawsuit against state prison officials, alleging they failed to provide adequate mental health care and medications.

Dean Hoffmann was found dead in his cell at Waupun Correctional Institution in June on the ninth day of a stint in solitary confinement. He is one of at least three Waupun inmates who died in 2023. The other two deaths remain under investigation.

Hoffmann’s daughter, Megan Hoffmann Kolb, filed the lawsuit in Milwaukee on Tuesday seeking unspecified damages.

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Hoffmann was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison in February 2023 for kidnapping a woman in 2018. His daughter alleges in the lawsuit that he was suffering from severe mental illness when he entered Waupun in April. He went weeks without seeing any mental health care providers due to a lockdown Warden Randall Hepp implemented in March and received medication only sporadically.

Guards placed Hoffmann in solitary confinement on June 20 after he refused to return to his cell, saying his cellmate had threatened him. He was found dead in solitary on June 29. The lawsuit alleges no one performed a psychological check on him while he was in solitary, a guard told him he didn’t care if he killed himself and guards didn’t give him his medication the morning he killed himself.

State Department of Corrections spokesperson Beth Hardtke said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation as a matter of policy.

A shortage of guards has forced several Wisconsin prisons, including institutions in Waupun, Green Bay and Stanley, to institute lockdowns last year. Some movement restrictions have since eased but the lockdowns are still ongoing.

A group of Waupun inmates filed a class-action federal lawsuit in Milwaukee in October alleging lockdown conditions amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Megan Hoffmann Kolb’s attorney, Lonnie Story, is representing the inmates in that case as well.

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