Waupun Correctional Institution

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin corrections officials said Tuesday they are closing part of the Waupun prison and transferring inmates to other facilities as they deal with staffing shortages exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department of Corrections said it is closing a cell hall at the maximum-security Waupun Correctional Institution and sending its 220 inmates to other prisons.

The transfers will reduce the prison’s overall population by 20% and help address staff vacancies, corrections officials said.

DOC Secretary Kevin Carr said the staffing shortages at Waupun are “not tied to any one, particular factor and did not happen overnight,” so the cell hall closure won’t fix all the issues, the State Journal reported.

“We think it is a step in the right direction,” Carr said.

The state prison system has historically struggled with staffing vacancies, but the problem has worsened with COVID-19. According to DOC data, 219 corrections employees were actively infected with the virus as of Monday and unable to work in the state’s prisons.

Since the start of the pandemic, 119 Waupun staff have self-reported testing positive for COVID-19, according to DOC.