A federal judge ruled Monday that a woman suing the Wyoming Department of Corrections alleging the prison system violated her constitutional rights cannot represent all women in similar situations.
Taylor Blanchard is serving time in a boot camp in Ocala, Florida, after suing the state this summer alleging the state violated her rights by operating a boot camp program for only male offenders. Blanchard was the first woman to have been recommended to a boot camp program, but she was initially sent to prison to begin serving a six- to 10-year sentence.
Blanchard’s suit was filed against the Wyoming Department of Corrections and the Wyoming Women’s Center warden as a class-action, meaning she would represent any women who might be recommended for the program in the future and those that would have been eligible for the program if not for their gender.
On Monday, Judge Scott Skavdahl filed a ruling that stated Blanchard’s attorneys had not fulfilled the requirements of a class-action suit. In federal court documents, Skavdahl wrote that Blanchard’s legal team did not show it would be impossible to bring a case in which all individual plaintiffs file together. Because Skavdahl found the case wanting in that regard, he did not consider the other three components of class certification named under federal court rules.
John Robinson, who is representing Blanchard in the case, declined to comment on Tuesday when reached by phone.
Justin Daraie, who is representing the defendants in the case, did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday.
Blanchard’s legal team had argued in previous filings that it was impossible to join together all members of her proposed class because the class would continue to grow as boot camp-eligible women continue to be sentenced.
“It is clear the number of any additional women to join (the class in the future) would be small, easily identifiable and reachable,” Skavdahl wrote when discarding the argument.
Blanchard’s case is still on track for an August trial.
A state judge had initially recommended Blanchard attend a boot camp program when sentencing her for a probation violation after she failed a required in-patient substance abuse program. Because Wyoming does not offer a women’s boot camp, Blanchard was being held in the Wyoming Women’s Center when she filed the suit. Since then, she has been transferred to the Florida boot camp, which her lawyers say violated her civil rights.
Because Blanchard is being held thousands of miles away from her Wyoming home and was placed in a program shorter than the Wyoming program, her attorneys have claimed that her 14th Amendment right to equal protection is being violated.
In Wyoming, a judge can recommend a rehabilitative boot camp program for offenders under the age of 25. The inmates spend much of their 17-hour days in Newcastle focused on work and physical activity.
Inmates who successfully complete the program can then ask a judge to reduce their remaining prison sentence.