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Crime-and-courts
Woman who sued Wyoming over men-only boot camp sent to program in Florida

A woman who sued Wyoming prison authorities has gotten what she wanted — a spot in a boot camp rather than prison.

Taylor Blanchard will begin serving at a boot camp program in Florida this fall after suing the state this summer alleging her civil rights had been violated because Wyoming’s own program is open only to young men.

Reached by email Friday, Blanchard’s attorney John Robinson said he was “very pleased” with Blanchard’s placement.

“We are hopeful that the remaining women in the Wyoming women’s prison who should have been given an opportunity to complete a boot camp program are given the same opportunity as Ms. Blanchard, and the men.”

In Wyoming, certain offenders under the age of 25 can attend a boot camp program for rehabilitation if a judge recommends it. The inmates spent six months in the program, where much of their 17-hour days are spent focused on work and physical activity.

Inmates who successfully complete the program can then ask a judge to reduce their remaining prison sentence.

A judge had recommended Taylor Blanchard attend a boot camp program. However, because Wyoming does not offer a women’s boot camp, she faced spending six to 10 years in prison instead. Blanchard sued the Wyoming Department of Corrections director and the Women’s Center warden in July, alleging a civil rights violation on the basis of her gender.

Although men have regularly been assigned to the state’s boot camp program in Newcastle, Blanchard is the only woman who has been recommended for the program. Blanchard filed a a class-action suit on behalf of any women who might be recommended for the program in the future.

Blanchard was originally sentenced to probation for drug crimes. A state judge recommended her for boot camp after she failed a required in-patient substance abuse program.

As the suit was getting underway, the Wyoming Department of Corrections was looking for a similar program should attend outside of Wyoming, according to federal court documents filed on behalf of the prison authorities. The Department of Corrections found three programs willing to take her, eventually sending her to Florida, where she will begin a similar program this fall. In the meantime, she is being held in an intake facility.

The documents, filed on Tuesday and Thursday in U.S. District Court for the State of Wyoming, seek to prevent Blanchard’s class from being certified, which would end the suit. The defendants in the case argue that because Blanchard has now been placed in a boot camp, her rights have not been violated and she is not a suitable representative of women who “have been or will be” denied access to boot camps.

The documents initially filed by Blanchard allege the Wyoming Department of Corrections did not allow Blanchard to attend the state-run boot camp in Newcastle and denied her request to attend a boot camp that accepts women out-of-state.

Robinson declined to comment on the latest round of court filings.


Casper
Yellowstone Garage
Yellowstone Garage opening new restaurant and bar

The Yellowstone Garage is reinventing itself again.

The downtown business started out decades ago as an auto shop, but current owner John Huff purchased the building in 2004 and eventually turned the structure into an event venue.

The establishment is now transforming into a restaurant and bar, which is expected to open next week, according to general manager Gerijo Brierley.

Brierley said the menu will include traditional American dining options, like cheeseburgers and sandwiches, and the bar will offer a variety of specialty cocktails.

“[It will be] an upscale twist on home cooking,” she explained.

To pay tribute to the building’s history, the manager said the décor will feature a variety of old car relics and antiques. They plan to hire about 50 people to work in the restaurant and bar.

An exact opening date has not been set, but Brierley encouraged anyone interested to check the business’s website for updates. She added that the Garage will still continue to host some events, just on a smaller scale.

The Yellowstone Garage is the latest in a string of new businesses that have been popping up in Casper’s core since the city started planning the David Street Station, a downtown plaza that opened last month.

Racca’s Pizzeria Napoletana, Urban Bottle and The Gaslight Social bar have all opened within the last year.

City officials, who have spent years working to develop the downtown area, intended for the plaza to have this effect and hoped it would create a more vibrant city center.

Some council members and business owners have expressed concern that Casper’s population is not large enough to support the influx of new drinking and dining establishments, but Gilda Lara, the executive director for the Casper Area Chamber of Commerce, previously told the Star-Tribune that the chamber thinks the additions will encourage residents to visit the downtown area more frequently.

More residents being out on the town will be beneficial for new businesses and old ones, she explained.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” she said at the time.

Huff was able to open the bar because City Council awarded him a $1,500 full liquor license on July 27, 2016.

State statue caps the number of full liquor licenses municipalities can issue based on population, but an increase in residents left Casper with one additional license to give out last year.

Huff beat out five other applicants for the coveted license, which can change hands on the private market for upwards of $300,000.

The entrepreneur said at the time that he expected the bar would be at least partially opened within a couple of months, but Brierley explained that opening up the new business turned out to be more complicated than they initially expected.

“We don’t want to have a meat market kind of bar,” Huff told Council when he received the license. “I want this to be a destination for people who, maybe they want to have a drink and let their kids play out front and enjoy the music.”


State-and-regional
Wyoming sends more aid, support to Harvey victims

Will Thompson and his family sat in their Colorado home last weekend and watched the images from Texas flicker across the evening news: people stranded on roofs reaching toward the skies, rivers of water careening down highways, families huddled in crowded shelters.

“We looked at each other and said, ‘Boy, we should do something,” Thompson said.

It’s a thought that many across the country have considered in the past week while watching the devastation from afar. It’s difficult to feel so far away while others suffer, to watch churning floodwaters wash away neighborhoods and lives while sitting warm and dry in intact homes.

A number of Wyomingites acted on the natural instinct to help those in east Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Thompson, who travels Wyoming for his job with a heavy equipment auctioneer, reached out to his contacts in the Wyoming Contractor’s Association and asked for donations. His 17-year-old son posted on social media requesting help. So far, they’ve raised more than $1,750 from contracting companies throughout Wyoming to purchase supplies. They’ve also collected donations of goods from a number of individuals and stored the bags and boxes of goods in their shop.

Next weekend, they’ll load up a 26-foot trailer and make the drive to Houston where they’ll distribute the goods to area shelters. They’ve never done anything like this before, Thompson said.

“But it’s all coming together,” he added. “It’s pretty incredible.”

In Casper, Grace Niemitalo organized an event to collect tampons, pads and diapers to send on Thompson’s truck to Texas. She was talking on the phone with a friend about how critical access to pads and tampons is in day-to-day life when she had the idea.

“How much more could they be needed during a time of devastation and the complete unknown,” she said. “That’s a necessity that’s really overlooked.”

She reached out to Shawn Houck, owner of Frontier Brewing, and asked for permission to use the bar for an event, which he allowed.

Niemitalo hopes the event, scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the brewery, will bring needed supplies to suffering people. She asked people to consider items that will be needed in the long-term and not just in the immediate situation.

“When people are considering making donations I would urge everyone to dig just a little deeper,” she said. “Our first inclination is to give something like clothes. But that’s everybody’s first inclination.”

Along with supplies and money, Wyoming is also sending manpower and equipment.

At least 10 Red Cross staff and volunteers from the Cowboy State are currently working in Texas and Louisiana, assigned to a wide variety of tasks.

On Friday, the Wyoming National Guard announced it would send two airplanes and 14 people to Fort Worth to help with airlifts in the area.

“This is exactly what we train to do,” Maj. Gen. Luke Reiner, the Wyoming adjutant general, said in a news release. “This is why America has a National Guard — to save lives at home, to fight our wars and to build partnerships.”