A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by a Wyoming woman against the state Department of Corrections that alleged the agency violated her constitutional rights by not operating a women’s boot camp.
The judge ruled that because Taylor Blanchard had already completed an out-of-state boot camp program, and had her sentence modified as a result, she no longer had standing to sue.
Blanchard sued the state in July after she was sent to prison despite a judge’s recommendation that she be sent to a boot camp program.
In Wyoming, male offenders under the age of 25 can attend a boot camp program for rehabilitation, if a judge recommends it. 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.
John Robinson, one of Blanchard’s attorneys in the case, said Friday he would contest the judge’s decision.
“We’re disappointed with the court’s ruling and we’re going to appeal,” Robinson said.
Blanchard is also represented by ACLU lawyer Stephen Pevar.
Justin Daraie, who represents the corrections department in the case, did not respond to a Friday request for comment. He has previously declined to comment on the case.
A Department of Corrections spokesman declined to comment.
In Tuesday’s decision, Judge Scott Skavdahl wrote the woman’s case was moot because she was no longer suffering any harm the court could remedy. Because boot camp is only available to first-time offenders, she would not be eligible for Wyoming boot camp and could not be at risk of any further harm relating to the case, the judge wrote. Blanchard is serving probation in Wyoming.
An attempt to add 15 more women to the suit was also rebuffed by Skavdahl. The 15 women did not receive boot camp recommendations, but would have been eligible, Blanchard’s attorneys have argued.
The judge wrote that the 15 women did not share enough in common with Blanchard to join the suit and prevent it from being discarded as moot. Skavdahl noted that the other women could consider filing another suit without Blanchard.
Robinson has not yet decided whether to file a suit on behalf of some or all of the other 15 proposed plaintiffs, he said.
After she brought the suit in July, Blanchard was transferred to a boot camp program in Florida. Her lawyers then amended the suit, alleging she was still being discriminated against.
Blanchard’s time in the Florida program was shorter, and therefore less rehabilitative, than Wyoming’s program for men, lawyers argued. They also cited an increased distance from family and friends as discriminatory.
Blanchard, who was sentenced for a probation violation relating to an underlying drug charge, completed the Florida program in January. A judge then suspended her six- to 10-year sentence to five years of probation.
Around the same time, Blanchard’s lawyers requested that 15 more plaintiffs be added to the suit. A Gillette woman who received a boot camp recommendation in December was not among them.